Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists is proud to offer many valuable foot and ankle services for our greater Austin, TX community, but diabetic foot care is perhaps one of the most important. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to serious medical emergencies, so it is essential to understand how to recognize this condition and when to seek help.
The Dangers of Diabetic Neuropathy
Neuropathy is another name for nerve damage, and this relates to diabetes because as many as 30% of neuropathy cases are caused by the disease. Nerve damage happens when prolonged exposure to high levels of blood sugar damage the delicate nerve fibers. In turn, this disrupts the affected nerves’ ability to properly transmit information to the central nervous system (your brain and spinal column).
Diabetic neuropathy can affect sensory nerves that receive sensations of cold, heat, and pain. If your brain doesn’t receive these messages, you might not even know if you’ve been injured, and that could lead to serious consequences.
The motor nerves that control how your muscles move can also be affected, causing difficulty with mobility. In addition, the condition affects autonomic nerves as well which regulate blood pressure, your heart rate, bladder function, and digestion.
Signs of Trouble
Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy depend on which nerves are affected. You may experience a burning or sharp pain, and/or a gradual tingling and numbness. Other symptoms include: extreme sensitivity to touch; changes to your hair, skin, and nails; lack of coordination; muscle weakness or paralysis; dizziness; digestive problems; and an intolerance to heat.
If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists right away. The earlier you start treatment, the better chance you have of controlling your symptoms and preventing further damage to you peripheral nerves. Risk factors, including the possibility of amputation, significantly decrease the sooner the condition is addressed.
Confirming the Diagnosis
In the past, a physical examination and some simple tests, along with consideration of your medical history, was all it took to diagnose diabetic neuropathy. However, results were limited in terms of accuracy. However, advances in technology have made it possible to now perform nerve conduction testing. NC-stat DPN Check is a tool that allows Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS to obtain highly accurate nerve conduction data in order to screen and diagnose patients.
Sural nerve action, potential amplitude, and conduction velocity are measured in-office, in just seconds, and displayed on the device for immediate results.
Controlling the Problem
You can slow the progression of diabetic neuropathy symptoms, and actually improve them over time by treating and managing your diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar closely, and adhere to a healthy diet and exercise routine. Try yoga or tai chi—both are believed to be beneficial in helping to control glucose levels and reduce neuropathy pain. Getting a foot massage can provide relief as well by improving circulation and stimulating nerves.
One of the most important ways that you can take control of the situation is to check your feet daily for any signs of cuts, blisters, calluses, or wounds that aren’t healing. Regular visits with one of our podiatrists is a must. Make sure your shoes and socks fit well, and avoid alcohol and smoking—these can worsen your symptoms. Lastly, be conscious of not staying in one position too long, such as kneeling or crossing your legs. This can cut off circulation and lead to further damage.
If you would like more information, or fear that you are suffering from diabetic neuropathy, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists in Austin, TX. Call (512) 328-8900 for an appointment today.