Understanding and Managing Diabetic Neuropathy

For people with diabetes, Diabetic Neuropathy is an unfortunate and common complication affecting up to 51% of patients. But what is diabetic neuropathy? And how can in home diabetes care workers and caregivers help seniors avoid diabetes complications?

What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Diabetic Neuropathy is a type of nerve damage associated with Diabetes and the high levels of blood sugar (glucose) moving throughout the body. In diabetic seniors, this damage most often occurs in the legs and feet. While the symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy may vary depending on the variation of neuropathy present, patients often report pain and numbness as primary symptoms.

Different Types of Diabetic Neuropathy:

There are four main types of Diabetic Neuropathy, each with their own distinct set of symptoms.

  • Peripheral Neuropathy: Also known as Distal Symmetric Peripheral Neuropathy, this is the most common variation of Diabetic Neuropathy. This neuropathy usually affects the feet and legs first, before it affects the hands and arms. Symptoms may include numbness, tingling or burning sensations, sharp pains or cramps, extreme sensitivity to touch, muscle weakness, foot ulcers or infections.
  • Autonomic Neuropathy: This type of neuropathy affects the Autonomic Nervous System, which controls blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, as well as eyesight, urination, the digestive system, and sex organs. Symptoms of this type of Diabetic Neuropathy may include low blood sugar levels, drops in blood pressure when standing which cause dizziness or fainting, bladder or bowel problems, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing, difficulty adjusting to different lighting levels, changed sweating patterns, or problems with sexual response.
  • Proximal Neuropathy: Proximal Neuropathy affects the nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks, and legs, but may also impact the abdomen and chest areas. Severe pain, weak muscles, difficulty standing, and chest pain are all common symptoms which are usually only present on one side of the body but may spread all over.
  • Mononeuropathy: This type of neuropathy only affects a single nerve. This nerve may be in the face, torso, arm, or leg, and, depending on location, may cause any of a variety of symptoms, including double vision or difficulty focusing, face paralysis, numbness in the hand or fingers, weakness in the hand, pain in the shin or foot, weakness related to lifting feet, or pain in the front of the thigh.

How to Prevent Diabetic Neuropathy

While the causes of Diabetic Neuropathy are unknown, there are actions seniors and their caregivers can take to improve outcomes related to diabetic neuropathy. In a 2018 study, patients who hired the assistance of a Home Health Care Agency had a significant improvement in their knowledge and practices related to their Diabetic Neuropathy care. So while individuals can manage Diabetic Neuropathy themselves, seniors will likely achieve greater success at prevention with a well-informed team of experienced caregivers.

  • Blood Sugar Management: The best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy is through effective blood sugar management. The American Diabetic Association recommends that people living with diabetes get a A1C test, which indicates your average blood sugar level from the past 2-3 months, at least twice a year. Depending on these results, you may consider adjusting your medications or changing your diet or physical activity levels, all of which a home healthcare provider or caregiver can assist with.
  • Foot Care: One of the earliest signs of degrading health are foot issues. As we get older, foot care is often neglected as we struggle to bend over to reach, clean, and inspect our feet. Sores and ulcers are common complications of Diabetic Neuropathy, and home healthcare providers and caregivers can help catch these issues early by careful monitoring and inspection.

Seniors with diabetes should be aware of the risks of Diabetic Neuropathy. While the signs may start as mild, if left untreated they can result in greater pain for the patient. These complications can be avoided by effectively controlling your blood sugar levels and caring for your feet, both of which can be helped by home healthcare providers or caregivers.

Allcare Home Health Agency, Inc. is an accredited agency offering Home Health Care services in the Raleigh/Durham area 24/7. Contact us today for information or call (919) 301-0236.

Gomaa Mohmed, F., Khyrat El Guindi, F., & Mohmed Esmat, O. (2018). Home Care for Clients with Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. Egyptian Journal of Health Care, 9(4), 513-535.
Hicks, C. W., & Selvin, E. (2019). Epidemiology of peripheral neuropathy and lower extremity disease in diabetes. Current diabetes reports, 19, 1-8.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (n.d.). Diabetic neuropathy. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-neuropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20371580