Have you been diagnosed with diabetes and are wondering what this means for your future? You may have heard that nerve damage is a common factor in around 70% of people with diabetes. While some people have no symptoms of nerve damage, others may experience severe pain.
Why Does Nerve Damage Occur?
In general, the longer you have diabetes and the older you are, the higher your risk of nerve damage. But studies have also shown that nerve damage is more common when a diabetic is unable or unwilling to control his or her blood glucose levels.
The reason is simple:
- High levels of glucose in the blood, combined with a slow metabolism and high fat levels, prevent the nerves from getting the nutrients they need. This damages them and causes nerve pain or neuropathy.
- Inflammation caused by disease and other factors can damage the nerves. People with diabetes are more susceptible.
- Your genes may also make it more likely that your nerves will be damaged.
- Smoking, alcohol and overeating are all triggers for nerve damage; again, the nerves are not getting the nutrients they need.
At a basic level, diabetes prevents your body from working properly and restricts the nutrients available to your nerves. Without oxygen and nutrients, every part of your body will be damaged and eventually die.
Prevention is better Than Cure!
The first rule of any medical condition is to prevent it from happening; this is usually easier than treating the problem. Although these measures will not prevent nerve damage, they will reduce the likelihood of it happening to you:
- Monitor your diet and control your blood sugar levels properly
- Remain active; this helps nutrients to get round your body.
- Speak to your therapist or medical professional as soon as you experience any signs of neuropathy.
Reversing Nerve damage
Unfortunately, the damage is often done before you realise there is a problem. This may be because of your eating habits when you were younger, or because you may not have had any symptoms of nerve damage before.
There are three stages in trying to reverse nerve damage:
- Blood Sugar Levels
The first step in treating and trying to reverse the nerve damage caused by diabetes is to get your blood glucose levels into the normal range; and keep them there! There is little point in trying to reverse the effects of high sugar levels if you cannot reduce them; you will simply cause more damage.
The key at this stage is to look at your diet and lifestyle; you can then make the necessary adjustments and improvements to control your blood glucose levels.
- Pain Relief
If you already have some nerve damage, you may find that you are in pain a lot of the time. This can be uncomfortable or distressing. Before you can concentrate on controlling your blood glucose and possibly repairing the nerve damage, you need to be pain-free.
The safest way to do this is to use painkillers. You should discuss the best options for you with your healthcare professional before taking any.
- Reversing the Nerve damage
Medical treatments are advancing rapidly, although there is currently no definitive answer from the scientific community that nerve damage is reversible.
The latest research, from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 2016, shows that high glucose levels cause the nerves to react on their own. In essence, it is like a child overloaded with sugar bouncing off the ceilings; they cannot control their energy levels! Nerves that react by themselves send the wrong messages to the brain; messages of pain or heat and cold.
The excess glucose in your system changes the structure of the nerve cells. This allows them to absorb more calcium than they need, causing a hyperactive effect and the resulting pain. Understanding the process is bringing scientists a big step closer to finding a way to reverse nerve damage.
The Natural Alternative
If your pain is severe and you do not want to take drugs that make you sleepy, you may want to consider these alternative options:
- Fish Oil
Fish oil has been used for many years to treat nerve damage caused by accidents. Your nerves usually become inflamed and fish oil can soothe the inflamed muscles around your nerves, allowing them to heal naturally and properly.
- Amino Acid
It is actually a substance that your body produces in abundance when you are younger. However, as you age, the amount of ALC you produce decreases and you are less able to heal damaged nerve fibres! Taking a supplement can reverse the nerve damage that has already occurred.
Taking care of your body should always be the first step, but scientific research will help ensure that nerve damage is fully reversible in the future.