What is Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is damage to the body’s delicate nerve fibers that results from high blood sugar. Symptoms can range from tingling and numbness to debilitating pain. Diabetic neuropathy also develops over time and symptoms may not arise until the damage to the nerves is significant.
The danger of diabetic neuropathy is real because damaged nerve fibers often send messages to the body too slowly, or at the wrong times, and sometimes fail to send messages at all.
This can result in a failure to detect problems in the body, or constant sensation in the body. And though diabetic neuropathy usually occurs in the legs and feet, it can impact every nerve system in the body, including the heart, sex organs, and digestive tract.
There are four types of neuropathy:
- Peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage that results when nerve cells are damaged or destroyed, distorting the way the nerves communicate with the brain and with each other. It generally affects the arms and legs, though damage typically occurs in the legs and feet before it occurs in the arms and hands. Learn More
- Autonomic neuropathy
Autonomic neuropathy impacts the nerves that control the body systems, and those functions of the body that we don’t consciously think about: heart, blood pressure, and blood glucose. Learn More
- Proximal neuropathy
Proximal neuropathy generally begins as pain in the hips, thighs, legs or buttocks, and usually occurs on one side of the body. It is most common in patients with type 2 diabetes and older adults. Learn More
- Focal neuropathy
Focal neuropathy begins suddenly and affects specific nerves, specifically those in the head, legs and torso. It is unpredictable and it occurs most frequently in older diabetics. Learn More
What causes Neuropathy?
Researchers are constantly studying the prolonged effects of high blood sugar on the body’s nervous system, but the reality is that neuropathy is likely caused by a combination of factors:
- high blood glucose, high blood fat levels, and low insulin levels
- long duration of diabetes
- injury to nerves (carpal tunnel syndrome, for example)
- smoking or alcohol use
The other reality is that the causes of diabetic neuropathy are likely different for each of the four types.
Who does Neuropathy affect?
Although diabetic neuropathy can develop at any time, the risk rises with age and duration of diabetes. In fact, patients who have had diabetes for 25 years or more demonstrate the highest occurrence of diabetic neuropathy.
Likewise, those who struggle to control their blood sugar, those with high levels of blood fat, and those with high blood pressure face the highest risk. Additionally, diabetic neuropathy can occur in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
How do I know if I have Neuropathy and how do I treat it?
As with anything, we strongly encourage you to speak with your medical professional who can help you diagnose and treat your neuropathy. Doctors must first have a complete medical history and a thorough physical exam before diagnosing diabetic neuropathy, and patient feedback can help the doctor determine which groups of nerves are involved.
Diabetic neuropathy isn’t reversible but, together with a doctor, patients can manage symptoms and prevent worsening of the condition. Here are some things you can try to help with neuropathy. To get a more comprehensive list, feel free to download our neuropathy guide.
1. Get Vitamin D and Vitamin B12.
Researchers at Britain’s University of Sheffield found that patients with diabetic neuropathy who had lower levels of Vitamin D experienced more nerve pain. Vitamin D is often called the sunlight vitamin because the skin produces Vitamin D in response to the sunlight, but it is difficult to get the required daily amount of Vitamin D from sunlight alone. Even eating foods rich in Vitamin D won’t provide the 600-800 IU required daily to ease nerve pain. Studies show that patients who supplement their Vitamin D reported decreased pain associated with diabetic neuropathy after three months.
Many diabetic patients suffer from B12 deficiencies because the high sugar American diet destroys Vitamin B12 in the intestinal tract. A B12 deficiency damages the sheath that protects nerves, causing nerves to function improperly. Ironically, B12 has proven effective at minimizing symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, including the numbness and prickling associated with it. B12 is often lacking in vegetarian diets because the vitamin doesn’t exist in plant sources, so dietary supplements may be prescribed for vegetarians.
2. Benfotiamine 150 mg Gelatin Capsules
Benfotiamine is a lipid-soluble derivative of thiamin that demonstrates improved absorption and duration of activity compared to water-soluble thiamin. Benfotiamine activates transketolase activity, thereby facilitating the conversion of harmful glucose metabolites and positively affecting AGE formation. It supports peripheral nerve health and may support vascular health, including the microvasculature of the retina and kidney. Benfotiamine is also an excellent way to improve thiamin status.
3. Eat the right foods
Controlling blood sugars may prevent nerve damage before it occurs since elevated blood glucose levels are a cause of diabetic neuropathy. Controlling carbohydrate intake and portion size will control blood sugar, and prevent worsening of existing nerve damage. A recent study also indicated that patients suffering from pain associated with neuropathy reported less pain when following a vegan, plant-based diet.
4. Exercise regularly
Studies show that regular exercise alleviates neuropathic pain in diabetic patients by increasing blood flow to the affected areas. Exercise also causes the body to be more sensitive to insulin and it increases muscle, which can absorb glucose without the aid of insulin, reducing the body’s dependence on it.
5. Control blood sugar
Since elevated blood glucose levels are the cause of diabetic neuropathy, it stands to reason that controlling glucose levels will impact the symptoms of neuropathy. Better glucose control will slow the development of neuropathy. Additionally, keeping triglycerides, and cholesterol within healthy ranges will also lessen the symptoms of neuropathy.
Our goal at BenfoComplete is to provide you with as much education on Diabetic Neuropathy as possible, that will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. To learn more about neuropathy in depth, we encourage you to download our 16 page neuropathy guide below. You can also join our free Facebook group where members share ideas and offer encouragement and education relative to diabetes and neuropathy. Click here to learn more.