Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is a consequence of diabetes and affects more than 50% of those with long-standing disease. The symptoms often affect people’s ability to perform daily activities. Patients complain of burning and tingling sensations, hypersensitivity, loss of sensation, and/or a tight sensation to the feet or hands, or a combination of these symptoms. April is Foot Health Awareness Month, and our podiatrists understand how diabetes and foot health are intertwined.
DPN is caused by nerve damage due to hyperglycemia, excess sugar within the blood system. This impairs the vasculature and growth factors within the nerves to the feet and hands, ultimately leading to nerve tissue damage and the above symptoms.
DPN can be prevented with optimal blood sugar control, improved cholesterol and blood pressure, smoking cessation, and reduction of alcohol consumption.
Therapy often involves a combination of the below treatment options, but before starting systemic/oral medications we recommend trying more conservative measures such as topical therapies.
- Topical therapies: Capsaicin cream, Lidocaine patches, and prescription compounded medicated creams
- Vitamin B combinations
- Physical Therapy: electrical nerve stimulation, gait training, exercise programs, heat, and ultrasound
- Prescription oral medications: Antidepressant and antiepileptic
- Laser Therapy
- Local support groups
- Emerging therapies: Gene and stem cell therapy, growth factor treatment, natural drugs
Those with diabetes should examine their feet daily and schedule regular check-ups with their podiatrist since some of those with DPN do not experience painful symptoms. With a loss of sensation, there is an increased risk of injury to the feet which can lead to small cuts in the skin that can lead to ulceration, infection, and amputation.