What you need to know about diabetic neuropathy

FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2019

It’s National Neuropathy Awareness Week. About 1 in 4 Americans age 65 and older have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Over time, high blood glucose levels and high levels of fats, such as triglycerides, in the blood from diabetes can damage diabetics’ nerves. High blood glucose levels can also damage the small blood vessels that nourish the nerves with oxygen and nutrients. Insufficient oxygen and nutrients make it difficult for the nerves to function well. As a result, many diabetics will later develop problems with their nerves, such as diabetic neuropathy. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a diabetic’s chance of developing nerve damage increases with age and the number of years they have had diabetes.
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes and one of the most common known causes of neuropathy. This damage can lead to problems throughout the body. Although symptoms can vary, the most common symptoms are numbness in the hands or feet and pain in the hands, feet or legs. Diabetic neuropathy can also impact the internal organs, leading to symptoms such as bladder infections, constipation or diarrhea, dizziness, impotence, incontinence, indigestion, low blood pressure, weakness, and weight loss. Risk factors for developing diabetic neuropathy include:
· Being overweight
· Having advanced kidney disease
· High blood pressure
· High cholesterol
· Smoking
Types of neuropathy
There are four major types of diabetic neuropathy: autonomic neuropathy, focal neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy, and proximal neuropathy. Autonomic neuropathy is damage to the nerves that control internal organs. This can lead to problems with heart rate and blood pressure, digestive system, bladder, sex organs, sweat glands, eyes and the ability to sense hypoglycemia. Focal neuropathy is damage to a single nerve, usually in the hand, head, torso and leg. Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage that typically affects the feet and legs. Sometimes, it also affects the hands and arms. Proximal neuropathy is a rare and disabling type of nerve damage in the hip, buttock or thigh. This type of nerve damage typically affects one side of the body and may spread to the other side. Proximal neuropathy often causes severe pain and may lead to significant weight loss.
Peripheral neuropathy can lead to foot complications, which are especially dangerous for older adults. The condition can cause seniors to lose sensation in their feet. As a result, sores or injuries may go unnoticed. The nerve damage can also cause problems with balance and coordination, leading to falls and fractures. That’s why it’s vital that people with diabetic neuropathy have regular foot examinations and foot care. Professional caregivers, in the long-term nursing setting, need to be specially trained on how to care for residents with peripheral neuropathy and how to monitor for changes in foot health. This proactive approach can help prevent infections, development of foot ulcers and potential amputations and hospitalizations. Putting a focus on foot health also helps residents maintain their highest level of mobility and quality of life.
The Compliance Store has policy templates and information on foot health, to learn more go to www.TheComplianceStore.com