A body with electricity like nerves running through it. In the corners there are hands and feet. Across the middle of the image is a deteriorating nerve rope.

Types of Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy happens over time when high blood sugar levels cause damage to the nerves. Most people are familiar with neuropathy that occurs in either the arms or legs, but there are 4 types of neuropathy that can occur in a diabetic.

Types of diabetic neuropathy

Those are peripheral, autonomic, focal, and proximal. Unfortunately, neuropathy generally does not improve, so it is best to keep blood sugar at an acceptable level before it is too late.1

Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is the first and most commonly known type. “Peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that typically affects the feet and legs and sometimes the hands and arms.”1 For most diabetics, it will cause tingling and numbness in the affected extremities. Because of this, diabetics can injure their feet and may not feel it which is one reason why daily foot exams are important, especially if you have peripheral neuropathy. It’s estimated that as many as 50% of diabetics have peripheral neuropathy.1

Autonomic neuropathy

The next type of neuropathy is autonomic neuropathy. “Autonomic neuropathy is damage to nerves that control your internal organs, leading to problems with your heart rate and blood pressure, digestive system, bladder, sex organs, sweat glands, and eyes. The damage can also lead to hypoglycemic unawareness.”1 Personally, I have known about the possible damage to the heart and eyes, but I did not know that so many organs can be potentially damaged.

Focal neuropathies

The third type of neuropathy is focal neuropathies. “Focal neuropathies are conditions in which you typically have damage to single nerves, most often in your hand, head, torso, or leg.”1 Entrapment syndromes, carpal tunnel syndrome for example, are the most common type of focal neuropathy. This neuropathy and the previous two are ones that typically do not get better. The last type is the only one that can get better over time.

Proximal neuropathy

Finally, we have proximal neuropathy, the one that can improve over time. However, it can take anywhere from months to years. “Proximal neuropathy is a rare and disabling type of nerve damage in your hip, buttock, or thigh. The damage typically affects one side of your body and may rarely spread to the other side.”1 Thankfully it is rare, but it also sounds terrible and painful.

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What can we do about preventing neuropathy?

Reading about all these neuropathies is a real eye-opener on the devastating effect diabetes can have on a person’s body, and this is only one of the types of diabetic complications. It seems that diabetes is a gateway condition that only leads to bigger and worse problems. I hope after reading this, a few people feel motivated to make that extra change in their daily routine. If you think or know you already have one or more of these, all hope is not lost. Talk with your doctor about medications and changes you can make to slow or stop the progression. Also, make sure you take a few extra minutes to examine your feet, hands, and anywhere else you have altered sensation. Lastly, if you haven’t had an eye appointment recently or for as long as you can remember, make sure to do that so you can possibly catch any eye-related problems early.

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