If you have diabetes, then there's a chance that you may develop diabetic neuropathy. An estimated 12-50% of people with diabetes have neuropathy to some extent. The condition can cause a wide range of symptoms, and for some people, can be disabling. If you have diabetes, it's essential to understand what's diabetic neuropathy, what causes it, and which diabetic neuropathy home remedy can help.
What's Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes. When blood sugar levels are high, it can cause nerve damage. While any part of the body can be affected, the condition is more likely to damage nerves in your feet and legs.
Types of Diabetic Neuropathy
There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy:
- Autonomic - which damages nerves that control your internal organs. Autonomic neuropathy can cause issues with your blood pressure, heart rate, bladder, digestive system, and eyes.
- Peripheral - which damages nerves in the feet and legs. In some cases, peripheral neuropathy can also affect the arms and hands.
- Proximal - which damages the nerves in your hips, thighs, and buttock. Proximal neuropathy is rare but disabling. It can cause severe pain and weight loss.
- Focal - is a class of neuropathies that damage single nerves. Nerves in the head, hand, leg and torso are most commonly affected.
Diabetic neuropathy can cause various symptoms, and the ones you experience will depend on the type. In most cases, symptoms develop gradually over several years. As a result, you may not notice any symptoms until the neuropathy has progressed to a more advanced stage.
Diabetic Neuropathy Causes and Symptoms
Why do people get diabetic neuropathy? What does blood sugar have to do with your nerves?
High blood sugar and fat levels can damage the nerves and the small blood vessels in your body. These vessels provide your nerves with vital oxygen and nutrients. If your nerves aren't getting enough nutrients and oxygen, they won't function properly.
>Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy
Different diabetic neuropathies have various symptoms.
- Peripheral neuropathy can cause sharp pains, cramping, numbness, temperature insensitivity, burning or tingling, heightened sensitivity to touch, and foot problems (infections, joint pain, etc.).
- Proximal neuropathy can cause disabling pain in the thigh, hip, or buttock, difficulty standing up, muscle atrophy, and stomach pain.
- Focal neuropathy can cause vision problems, weakness in the hands, numbness or tingling in the fingers, Bell's palsy (paralysis on one side of the face).
- Autonomic neuropathy can cause bowel or bladder problems, difficulty adjusting to the light in the room, sexual problems, digestion issues (like slow stomach emptying), and lack of awareness that blood sugars are low.
Pain is a common symptom with all types of neuropathies, but the location of the pain will vary depending on the type of neuropathy. For some, the pain is mild. For others, the pain is so severe that it's disabling.
Complications of Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy can cause complications in some cases. Like with the symptoms, complications will depend on the type of neuropathy.
- With peripheral neuropathy, you may experience foot problems, like infections, sores, and ulcers. As the nerve damage progresses, you may lose feeling in your feet and may not notice sores or other issues with your feet. That loss of feeling can also affect your balance and coordination, increasing the risk of fractures and falls.
- Autonomic neuropathy can interfere with the way your organs work. Some people have issues with digestion, blood pressure, urination, and heart rate.
Diabetic neuropathy can make it challenging to get around on your own. For some people, the loss of independence can lead to depression and anxiety.
Preventing Diabetic Neuropathy
DPN is the result of uncontrolled blood sugar and fat levels. Proper management of your diabetes is the best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy. Keeping your cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure at healthy levels can help reduce your risk of developing this condition.
There are other steps you can take to help prevent diabetic neuropathy, including:
- Staying physically active
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting your consumption of alcoholic drinks
Taking your prescribed medication and following your diabetes meal plan can help keep your blood glucose levels at a healthy level.
Diabetic Neuropathy Home Remedies
As of right now, diabetic neuropathy has no cure. The goal is to manage your symptoms and slow the progression of nerve damage.
Along with the treatment recommended by your doctor, there are home remedies you can use to help improve your symptoms, such as:
Eating a Healthy Diet
Maintaining a healthy diet and following your recommended diabetes meal plan can help slow the progression of the disease and manage your symptoms.
Reducing your intake of simple carbs (e.g., white bread, pasta, white rice, etc.) and sugary drinks and foods is a great first step.
Focus on eating a diet rich in:
- Whole, unprocessed foods
- Whole grains
- Lean meats
- Healthy fats
If you must sweeten your foods and drinks, try using stevia. Stevia is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener that won't affect your blood sugar levels.
Here are some other helpful tips for healthy eating:
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least six glasses of water each day.
- Manage your portions carefully.
- Track your daily food intake through an app or a journal.
- Bring your lunch to work.
Eating a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do for your health and help stop your DPN from getting worse.
Along with eating a healthy diet, staying active can help keep your blood sugar levels under control. Exercise can also help with high blood pressure and make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
A study from 2012 found that exercising regularly reduced neuropathic symptoms and pain significantly.
If you don't already have an exercise routine, start with just a few minutes a day. Then, work your way up to 30-60 minutes of low-impact exercise per day, such as walking or biking.
Dimethylsulfoxide, or DMSO, is a chemical solvent, but it has been used for medicinal purposes. DMSO is easily absorbed by the skin and has been shown to help with inflammation and pain.
In fact, one study found that DMSO slowed C-type nerve fibers. At high concentrations, it blocked C fiber conduction entirely.
DMSO's effect on C-type nerve fibers may explain its pain-relieving effects and why it may help with diabetic neuropathy.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of many cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Known for its therapeutic properties, CBD does not have psychoactive effects and may help with pain, including pain associated with neuropathy.
One study found that topical CBD oil helped improve pain and other discomforts in participants with peripheral neuropathy. In this study, one group was given a placebo and the other was given 250 mg of CBD. The CBD group saw a significant reduction in pain as well as itching and cold sensations.
CBD is easy to apply and may even help with depression or anxiety if you're suffering from that as well.
Although more research is needed, some essential oils have been shown to help with pain, including:
- Lavender: A 2016 study found that lavender oil helped reduce nerve pain and anxiety in people with peripheral neuropathy. Lavender essential oil also has anti-inflammatory effects that may further help ease nerve pain.
- Chamomile: One study found that borneol, a compound in chamomile, helped reduce pain sensitivity in rodents.
- Frankincense: There is some evidence that frankincense may help with neuropathy pain.
Diabetic neuropathy affects many people with diabetes. If blood sugar levels aren't adequately managed and controlled, it can lead to complications. The remedies above may help with the management of your symptoms when used alongside conventional treatments.
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