Understanding Diabetic Neuropathy

“Neuropathy” is a general word meaning any kind of nerve damage or disease. When we use the term diabetic peripheral neuropathy, we’re throwing into one basket all of the things that can go wrong with the nerves in a diabetic’s foot. And unfortunately, there are a lot of things to feast on in that basket. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a huge problem that affects more than 50% of all diabetics at some point during the course of their disease, so we see it and treat it quite often at Foot & Ankle Associates of Cleveland.

What’s a peripheral nerve?

Any nerve that is located outside of the brain and spinal cord is called a peripheral nerve. The function of a peripheral nerve is to carry messages from the brain to other parts of the body. When peripheral nerves can’t do their job, messages get lost. For example, let’s say you just stepped on a piece of glass at the beach. Your foot gets a nasty cut; but, you have no idea because nerve damage prevents the message “Ouch – pain – you’re bleeding, dear, do something” from being sent to your brain.

Damage to peripheral nerves varies

Peripheral neuropathy can affect all or some of the different nerves throughout your lower extremities. For example, damage to the motor nerves – motor neuropathy – can affect the shape of your foot or prevent you from moving it in certain ways. Sensory neuropathy will impact the nerves that help you sense temperature and pain (as in the case of that glass cut above). Message delay in the autonomic nerves – the ones that control automatic things like sweating or blood pressure – can result in overly dry skin, for example.

Neuropathy + Diabetes = Danger

Although neuropathy can happen for various reasons, by far the most common is diabetes. Losing feeling in your feet is one of the primary reasons that diabetics need to make regular visits to their podiatrist. Dr. Meghan L. Oltmann and Dr. Craig B. Frey, the experienced doctors at our office in Solon, Ohio, are your partners in tracking any changes in structure or feeling in your feet and treating them before they can lead to serious complications.

Make appointments with us on a regular basis to have your feet checked out, either online or by calling us at (404) 903-1041, and don’t hesitate to schedule an extra visit if you have symptoms of neuropathy such as numbness, pain, tingling, or any deterioration in feeling.