Neuropathy and diabetic neuropathy are serious issues that affect many people with diabetes in the U.S. and abroad. In this article, we'll go through some of the types of neuropathy and what these types of nerve damage do to the body. We'll talk about how these types of problems start, and even a little bit about how to stop them. But mostly, we're going to talk about the types of neuropathy and how to distinguish between them. All types of neuropathy can be classified, and even diabetic neuropathy can be classified into different types.
As we said, there are four main types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral neuropathy, proximal neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and focal neuropathy. This is because there are many “nerve centers” and glands in the body, and although they are all connected in some way, it's also possible that there could be something wrong with one system while the others in the body are functioning fairly normally. Let's look at the first of these, peripheral neuropathy. PN goes by a few different names depending on where you are in the world; some places call it peripheral diabetic nerve pain, others call it distal polyneuropathy. This type of problem is the most common when dealing with patients who have diabetes.
It's a problem that occurs when the nerves that go to your hands and feet start to get damaged because of this lack of proper nutrition. The nerves in your feet travel the farthest of all the nerves in your body. If any part of your body doesn't get good nutrition, it can start to malfunction. This is basically what happens to the nerves in your extremities in these cases. This is also why many people with diabetes end up with foot problems.
The second type of neuropathy is called proximal neuropathy, and like diabetic neuropathy, it can be called different things depending on where you are on the globe. Some people call it diabetic amyotrophy because “myo” refers to muscles. As you might think, this type involves muscles that become “twitchy” and weak. Sometimes there is also nerve pain, and this usually happens in older patients who also have diabetes. Many people call this ‘sciatica' and it's basically nerve pain in the lower back. The medical term for this is ‘radiculopathy'. The good thing about this type of situation is that it can usually be relieved with treatment. Proximal neuropathy is the second most common type of neuropathy in the world.
The third type of neuropathy is called autonomic neuropathy, and your clue to this type of neuropathy is in the first few letters of the word: ”auto.” You see, many muscles and nerves in our body (in some cases, most of them) work without our brain telling them to. Think about it; you don't make a conscious decision to inhale every few seconds. You don't consciously choose to make your heart beat, or your blood flow, or your white blood cells fight invaders. Your body just does that on its own, which is why autonomic neuropathy is kind of scary. Even things like digestion and vision are controlled by autonomic processes. When these nerves are affected by diabetes, bad things can happen. Again, fortunately for many, these processes can be inhibited or reversed if you change your behavior.
The fourth type of neuropathy is more focused; it's called “focal neuropathy” for a reason. It is sometimes called mononeuropathy (see this New York Times article on mononeuropathy) or focused neuropathy. This type of neuropathy can come on suddenly. Specifically, nerves in the skull and neck that go to the eyes are susceptible to this type of problem. It can also affect nerves that control and adjust the trunk and legs. These are the nerve problems that cause quick, “shooting” pains. This type of neuropathy can also be found in the wrist or thigh. People get them regularly when they cross their legs, or when they rest their elbows on hard surfaces. Often this type of pain can be mistaken for a sprain or sports injury because the pain can stay in one area for a long time. Fortunately for people who have these types of problems, they usually go away with therapy and also go away on their own after about 6 to 8 weeks. Eye pain is of course very serious, and if you have any kind of pain in your eyes, you should see a doctor immediately. By the way, consider exploring the variety of neuropathy solutions we have at our store.