Diabetic neuropathy describes a form of damage to the nerves that is possible in patients with diabetes. It is essentially a complication of diabetes that influences damage to the system of nerves in the body, primarily in a patients’ legs and feet. Considering the critical importance of nerves in the body, particularly in terms of enabling movement and automatic functions such as breathing, this is a potentially serious effect on the health and wellbeing of the patient. Diabetic neuropathy is a progressive condition, with symptoms worsening over time. Do Nascimento et al. (2016) observe that the onset, evolution, pathophysiological mechanisms, and clinical manifestations of diabetic neuropathy vary widely? Symptoms of the condition could range widely depending on the affected area, including numbness in feet and legs, loss of tendinous reflexes, pain, and problems in the digestive system, urinary tract, heart, or blood vessels. Considering that diabetic neuropathy is the most prevalent micro-vascular complication, Do Nascimento et al. (2016) note the approximations of experts that at least 50% of diabetic patients are likely to develop neuropathy at some point in their clinical evaluations.
Pop-Busui et al. (2017) observe that there is no treatment that targets the underlying nerve damage that characterizes diabetic neuropathy. The implication is that screening to enable early intervention against signs and prevention are key components of diabetes care. Prevention of diabetic neuropathy emphasizes lifestyle modifications and glucose control. In people with type 1 diabetes, enhanced glucose control reduces the incidence of distal symmetric polyneuropathy (a form of diabetic neuropathy) dramatically (about 78% reduction in relative risk), while in people with type 2 diabetes, it achieves a modest reduction in this risk (5-9%) (Pop-Busui et al., 2017). Lifestyle modifications involve dietary changes towards low-fat, low-calorie, and low-carbohydrate diets and the incorporation of regular physical activity in patients’ lives. These interventions are important to prevent diabetic neuropathy in patients.
Do Nascimento, O., Pupe, C., & Cavalcanti, E. (2016). Diabetic neuropathy. Revista Dor Sao Paulo 17(1): 46-51.
Pop-Busui, R., Boulton, A., Feldman, E., Bril, V., Freeman, R., Malik, R., Sosenko, J., & Ziegler, D. (2017). Diabetic neuropathy: A position statement by the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 40: 136-154.