Diabetes is a slowly progressive metabolic disorder, a medical condition characterized by widespread changes in the body. Insulin resistance or deficit causing elevated blood glucose levels is characteristic of this disease.
Glucose is essential to fulfilling the energy needs of body and especially nerves, but our body is very sensitive to its levels. Two body tissues that are demonstrated to be extremely sensitive to the changes in the glucose levels in the blood are small blood vessels and peripheral nerves.
Insulin is a hormone that opens the so-called glucose gates of the various body cells so that that glucose can enter the cells. Deficit or resistance to insulin means that less of the gates are opening. Thus body cells start starving, while there is an excess of glucose in our circulating blood.
This excess of circulating glucose in the blood changes the osmotic pressure of the blood; it leads to damage to cells in various ways, including loss of liquid. As nerve cells do not have any other sources to fulfill their energy needs, they seem to start suffering from the very beginning of diabetes.
High blood glucose level also damages the internal epithelial layer of blood vessels, and many of the small blood vessels supplying oxygen and other essential elements to nerves become injured in the process.
But insulin is not just about control of glucose metabolism, it plays other vital roles, especially in maintaining healthy growth and repair of somatic cells. Thus its deficit leads to disturbances in various trophic mechanisms.
Unlike common belief, diabetes is not only about the altered level of glucose; insulin deficit disturbs the metabolism of all the major energy providing fuels. After glucose comes the lipids or fats, that not only produce energy but are also needed for the healthy maintenance of nerves. Dyslipidemia or changes fat metabolism is equally characteristic of diabetes.
Nerve Damage Due To Diabetes
In diabetes, the nerve damage is not due to some single cause, but instead, there are multiple metabolic changes behind, making the treatment difficult, although It is not a complete mystery anymore, as more and more is being learned about the causes of such nerve damage.
In traumatic events usually, the damage is to one or two nerves, while in a metabolic disease like diabetes these injuries are really far more widespread. Trauma is an acute event characterized by immediate destruction of nerve cells at some level, but in case of metabolic changes, nerve damage is extensive and occurs more slowly.
In diabetes nerve damage is more commonly felt in the nerves that are far from the heart, and thus they have less of blood supply. In diabetes neuropathy or nerve pain would typically start from feet and slowly progress to the lower legs, as the disease advances these changes in the functioning of nerves would be felt even in the hand and arms. Thus, in diabetes, the so-called “socks and gloves” pattern of nerve pain is more common.
Nerve pain in diabetes may be made worse by other problems which may or may not be directly caused due to diabetes. In diabetes there may be poor bone health, damage to joints, recurrent and difficult to treat infections of feet and lower extremities.
It is recommended that the person who has diabetes regularly check for the presence of neuropathy, as in some cases symptoms may be mild.
Mostly, diabetic neuropathy of feet would start with numbness, tingling sensation, and pain that is worse while resting or at night. While some may have a feeling of shooting pain, burning sensation, sensation of pins and needles, throbbing pain, radiating pain, and pain sensitive to the touch.
As diabetic nerve pain is the result of nerve damage due to metabolic changes, it is more difficult to manage. Pain may quite often occur at rest, or even in activities that are not painful for most people like wearing the shoes. Worst of all, the neuropathic pain in diabetes is a symptom that appears when quite a lot of irreversible damage has been done.
But this does not mean that one cannot stop the progress any further. A primary preventive measure of diabetic neuropathy remains the strict control of blood glucose level which should be done with the help of medications, natural remedies, and lifestyle modification.
To stop the nerve damage, eat food that is rich in vitamins, especially vitamins belonging to group B, certain fatty acids like omega. Take regular exercise, foot massage, acupuncture or reflex-therapy may also help to overcome the pain caused due to neuropathy.
While drug therapy is useful for acute pain relief, but long-term pain preventing is best done by adopting natural remedies.
Read this article for more information: What Does Diabetic Nerve Pain in the Feet Feel Like?