Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathies are a family of nerve disorders caused by diabetes. People with diabetes can, over time, develop nerve damage throughout the body.

What are symptoms of diabetic neuropathies?

Some people with nerve damage have no symptoms. Others may have symptoms such as pain, tingling, or numbness—loss of feeling—in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Nerve problems can occur in every organ system, including the digestive tract, heart, and sex organs.

What are the causes of diabetic neuropathy?

Prolonged exposure to high blood sugar (glucose) can damage delicate nerve fibers, causing diabetic neuropathy. High blood glucose interferes with the ability of the nerves to transmit signals. It also weakens the walls of the small blood vessels (capillaries) that supply the nerves with oxygen and nutrients. Other factors that may contribute to diabetic neuropathy include: Inflammation in the nerves, Genetic factors unrelated to diabetes that make some people more susceptible to nerve damage, and smoking and alcohol abuse, which damage both nerves and blood vessels and significantly increase the risk of infections.

Do all diabetics get diabetic neuropathy?

About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy. People with diabetes can develop nerve problems at any time, but risk rises with age and longer duration of diabetes. The highest rates of neuropathy are among people who have had diabetes for at least 25 years. Diabetic neuropathies also appear to be more common in people who have problems controlling their blood glucose, also called blood sugar, as well as those with high levels of blood fat and blood pressure and those who are overweight.

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