Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2019 based on 87,647 death certificates in which diabetes was listed as the underlying cause of death, according to the American Diabetes Association. In 2019, 37.3 million Americans, or 11.3 percent of the population, had diabetes.
The latest survey by the International Diabetes Union found one in four diabetic patients interviewed reported they did not receive adequate information on the disease. As a result, many patients failed to care for complications properly, which seriously hindered their daily life.
Diabetes Causes Peripheral Neuropathy
Diabetic patients are often unaware of the relationship between peripheral neuropathy and diabetes. Hence, they may misinterpret sensations of physical paralysis as part of aging. Since symptoms of diabetes are not always apparent in the early phases, by the time some patients seek medical treatment, the disease may have progressed substantially.
Endocrine and Diabetes Specialist Practitioner Dr. Tsang Man-wo at United Christian Hospital points out that diabetes is the prominent cause of peripheral neuropathy. The nerve fibers in the surrounding nervous system are damaged, causing peripheral nerve injuries or microvascular dysfunction due to elevated blood sugar levels.
Peripheral neuropathy can lead to multiple health risks, including sensory loss, muscle atrophy, and shakiness, increasing the risk of injury and making everyday activities a challenge. Diabetic patients are prone to other severe health conditions, such as skin ulcers and diabetes mellitus foot-induced amputation.
How to Prevent Peripheral Neuropathy?
Tsang suggests the best way to prevent lesions or further deterioration by diabetes is to control blood sugar levels. In addition to blood sugar control, patients should maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, avoid smoking and consuming alcohol, and exercise regularly.
Moreover, patients should take sufficient vitamins B1, B6, and B12 for more effective maintenance of the health of blood vessels and nervous systems.
Vitamin B1 deficiency impacts the heart and feet, damages nerves, and likely causes beriberi, also known as thiamine deficiency. The lack of vitamin B6 affects the blood and brain, signaling transduction of the nervous system. Vitamin B12 deficiency impacts the blood and nervous system regeneration, or worse, causes scurvy, malignant anemia, sensory loss, and dementia.
Metformin is a common drug for treating diabetes. However, the higher the dosage and prolonged use, especially for three years or more, may affect vitamin B12 absorption in the intestines, resulting in peripheral neuralgia.
Tsang says that by increasing the intake of B vitamins specifically for the nervous system, such as B1, B6, and B12, the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can be relieved and prevented.
The doctor suggests that whenever patients encounter numbness in the limbs, particularly diabetics, they should not overlook the possibility of peripheral neuropathy and mistake it for arthritis or sciatica.