If you have diabetes, chances are you’ve heard about peripheral neuropathy, but you may not know much about it. How do you know if you have it or not? This post explains what peripheral neuropathy is, who is at risk of developing it, what symptoms you might experience if you have it, and what you should do if you have those symptoms.

Peripheral Neuropathy Defined

Peripheral means “on the edges” or “on the outskirts” and neuro- is nerve-related, while -pathy signifies disease. So, peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves in your hands, or more likely, your feet. It’s most frequently caused by diabetes, but may also be the result of repetitive actions, trauma, infections, among other causes.

There are several different classifications of peripheral nerve damage, depending on the number and type of nerves affected. For example, if only one nerve is damaged, you have mononeuropathy and if your ability to perceive sensation is affected, your sensory nerves have been damaged. 

The three types of nerves are: 

  • Motor nerves, which control the movement of the muscles you consciously use -- like those that allow you to walk
  • Sensory nerves, which allow you to perceive temperature, pain, and touch
  • Autonomic nerves, which control things your body does without your thinking about it -- like breathing or your heart beating

Most people who have peripheral nerve damage have multiple affected nerves and at least some of all three types of nerves have at least some damage. You may have predominantly motor neuropathy or predominantly sensory neuropathy, which means that one type of nerve is more damaged than the others. 

The Risks

If you have diabetes and peripheral nerve damage, you have diabetic neuropathy. Glucose can damage your nerves, so if you had uncontrolled high blood sugar prior to diagnosis or if you had difficulty in getting your blood sugar under control, you may have sustained some nerve damage.

Diabetic neuropathy is the most common type of neuropathy, and the peripheral nerves are most often affected. You’re much more likely to have symptoms in your feet and legs than in other parts of your body.

All of this means that people with diabetes are at the greatest risk of developing peripheral neuropathy. 

Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

You’re most likely to feel symptoms at night, in your feet. Common symptoms include:

  • Tingling or burning
  • Numbness
  • Cramping or sharp pain
  • Sensitivity to touch -- even a sheet draped over your feet may hurt
  • Weakness
  • Lack of balance 
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Pain in your joints

One of the reasons that peripheral nerve damage is a concern for people with diabetes is that diabetes inhibits your body’s ability to heal. For example, if you don’t perceive pain and burn your foot getting into a too-hot bath, the burn may not heal properly and could become infected.

If you have any of the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, especially if you have diabetes, call to make an appointment at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists. Our providers are experts in treating nerve damage and have extensive experience in working with patients who have diabetes. We have two locations for your convenience and will be happy to discuss your situation.

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