The high blood glucose that goes hand in hand with diabetes wreaks havoc on your nervous system, destroying the nerve fibers throughout your body. Depending on the type of nerves it targets and where they’re located, you may suffer from numbness and tingling, pain, or organ dysfunction.
To help you recognize the signs of diabetic neuropathy and the difference between the three main types, our experts, Dan Preece, DPM, and Darren Groberg, DPM, offer their professional insight.
As a branch of Utah Musculoskeletal Specialists in Salt Lake City, Utah, we have the expertise, experience, and resources to accurately diagnose your diabetic neuropathy and treat your condition effectively, stopping further damage and restoring function and relief.
Here’s a closer look at diabetic neuropathy and the three primary types of nerves it tends to attack.
Diabetic neuropathy and sensory nerves
Your sensory nervous system gathers information about your environment and sends that intel to your brain. It does this with the help of countless receptors at the end of the line. There are many different types of receptors. For example:
- Mechanoreceptors pick up texture and pressure changes
- Thermoreceptors perceive changes in temperature
- Nocirecptors report pain to your brain
- Photoreceptors detect light
- Chemoreceptors signal the presence of chemicals
If high blood sugar damages any of these sensory nerves, the messages they send to your brain get scrambled. Depending on which nerves are affected, you may experience
- Sharp, unexplained pain
- Inability to sense real pain and extreme temperatures
Eventually, the damage progresses and destroys the nerve completely, rendering it incapable of sending any messages to your brain at all.
Diabetic neuropathy and motor nerves
While sensory nerves send messages from your body to your brain, motor nerves send messages from your brain to your body.
When your motor nervous system is healthy, it instructs your body to carry out the thoughts in your head. For example, if you want to lift your cup of coffee and take a sip, the process starts in your brain and your motor nerves contract, relax, and elongate muscles to perform the task.
Every move you make relies on this complex system of motor nerves, so if diabetic neuropathy damages them, you may experience:
- Involuntary muscle spasms
- Loss of coordination and/or balance
- Muscle atrophy
When your motor nerves can no longer translate your brain’s commands, it disrupts your ability to walk, grip, write, drive — in essence, your life.
Diabetic neuropathy and autonomic nerves
Where sensory and motor nerves affect the things you do, feel, see, and hear, autonomic nerves control your involuntary body functions, such as breathing air and digesting food.
Like the receptors at the ends of your sensory nerves, autonomic nerves have receptors that detect changes in your body’s internal stimuli. These receptors can pick up on things like low oxygen, high blood pressure, and imbalanced hormones, and this triggers a response to correct the problem.
If diabetes affects your autonomic nerves, you may experience:
- Digestive problems
- Excessive sweating
- Bladder and bowel issues
- Sexual dysfucntion
- Difficulty swallowing
- Blood pressure problems
- Unintentional weight loss or gain
When diabetic neuropathy affects your autonomic nerves, you may also notice problems with your natural reflexes, such as sneezing, coughing, or regurgitating.
Diagnosing and treating diabetic neuropathy
The key to treating your diabetic neuropathy and preventing it from further damaging your nerves, is to get an accurate diagnosis. Drs. Preece and Groberg use the most advanced technology to determine exactly which nerves have been affected and to what extent.
Specifically, we rely on two of the most sophisticated diagnostic tools available: the SUDOSCAN® device and a pressure specified sensory device (PSSD). These instruments allow us to pinpoint nerve damage and identify potential nerve entrapment.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of sensory, motor, or autonomic nerve damage, schedule an appointment with us right away, so we can diagnose the exact type of nerve damage, relieve your symptoms, and restore your function.