Treating (and Preventing) Diabetic Neuropathy

Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

Neuropathy has several symptoms, but the most common doctors see is a lack of feeling in the feet. “It’s a persistent numbness, and you can’t get your sensation back,” says Dr. Amir Assili, a podiatrist at Shady Grove Podiatry in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

This can be dangerous for several reasons. Without feeling in your feet, you don’t know if you’ve stepped on something that’s injured you. “You could step into a hamburger grinding machine and not feel it,” says Dr. Ronald Tamler, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Clinical Diabetes Institute in New York. More realistically, you could step on a nail, thumbtack, glass or other sharp items and not know, he adds. Another example: A pebble could get in your shoe and cause an ulcer or foot sore. Or you could be wearing poor-fitting shoes and not know it, Tamler says, which could damage your feet over time. You’re also at a greater risk of falling.

If you injure your foot and don’t know it, an infection could develop. An untreated infection can reach other parts of your body or lead to such severe damage in the foot that it requires amputation. In fact, more than 60 percent of nontraumatic foot amputations in the U.S. occur in patients with diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Depending on the severity of an infection that develops and how poor wound healing is, you could even die from problems related to neuropathy, Tamler says.

Other symptoms of neuropathy if you still have feeling in your feet include pain, burning, tingling and sensitivity to touch. These symptoms will worsen at night and may keep you awake.

However, the lack of feeling in the feet is the symptom that concerns doctors the most.

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