Diabetes can lead to a wide range of complications, conditions, and problems. One of the most common is peripheral neuropathy — a slow-developing condition that causes nerve damage, especially in the feet, hands, arms, and legs. Left unchecked, neuropathy can severely and negatively impact a person’s mobility, health, and lifestyle.
Roughly 40% of all people with diabetes will develop some type of neuropathy during their life — but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps now to help mitigate symptoms or prevent neuropathy entirely. Understanding the early warning signs of peripheral neuropathy can help improve your outcome.
But what are the signs of peripheral neuropathy? How do you learn to recognize them so you can get treatment at the right time? Here’s what you need to know about spotting neuropathy’s early warning signs.
What are the first signs of peripheral neuropathy? Early risk factors to look out for
Peripheral neuropathy has a variety of causes. That said, some conditions or events can put you at greater risk of developing neuropathy. These include:
Diabetes — Neuropathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes. The most common areas affected by diabetic neuropathy are the legs and feet.
Substance abuse — Smoking, alcohol, and any toxic substance can damage blood vessels and nerves, leading to neuropathy.
Autoimmune diseases — Certain diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome or celiac disease lead the body to attack nerve tissues and can result in damage to peripheral nerves.
Physical trauma — Accidents, injuries, and even surgeries can lead to peripheral neuropathy if a nerve becomes damaged during the event.
- Infections — Some infections, such as West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, and HIV/AIDS, are associated with an increased risk of neuropathy.
Of course, other things can cause neuropathy, including genetic mutations, medications, and even vitamin deficiencies. Any of these can make a person more susceptible to developing neuropathy, which means it is essential to treat them as early warning signs of potential neuropathy.
Understanding your risk of developing the disease is one of the first and most important things you can do to protect your health. If you think that you’re at risk for peripheral neuropathy, be sure to speak to your doctor about ways you can prevent it.
But what happens if neuropathy has already developed? What are the signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy to be on the lookout for?
Signs and symptoms of advancing peripheral neuropathy
There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy. They can affect everything from the motor nerves that control your movements to the autonomic nerves that control things like breathing and sweating. This means that not everyone with peripheral neuropathy will experience the same symptoms. However, some of the most common neuropathy signs include:
- Itchy feet, hands, legs, and arms
- A tingling, pins-and-needles sensation
- Sudden burning or “shocking” pain
- Muscle weakness or uncontrolled muscle spasms
- Painful sensitivity to normal or gentle touch or temperatures
- Decreased sensitivity
- Sweating or lack of sweating
- Sleep disruptions
- Gastrointestinal issues
Your symptoms will vary depending on what nerves have been damaged, how long you’ve had the condition, and how much damage the nerves have sustained. Some people have very mild and infrequent symptoms or go weeks or months in between bouts of symptoms. For others, though, symptoms may be intense and consistent.
It’s important to take any sign of neuropathy very seriously. If you notice any of the above early warning signs of peripheral neuropathy, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Catching this condition early on can help prevent serious nerve damage and the negative outcomes associated with it.
Late-stage signs of peripheral neuropathy
Unfortunately, sometimes peripheral neuropathy isn’t identified or diagnosed until it’s already progressed very far. Once peripheral neuropathy has set in, you may notice signs such as:
- An increase in frequency or intensity of the above symptoms.
- Intense daily pain that can only be controlled with prescribed medications.
- A total loss of pain and sensation in certain areas of the body, especially the feet and legs.
While the absence of pain may not seem like a serious issue, it is one of the most dangerous stages of peripheral neuropathy. A loss of sensation means that peripheral neuropathy has progressed to the point where your nerves are no longer just damaged; they are dead. This can put you at risk for future complications such as falls, injuries, and more. If you notice a loss of pain or sensation in your limbs or any part of your body, see a doctor immediately.
Combating peripheral neuropathy: treatments for a better quality of life
Education is one of the best ways to protect yourself from peripheral neuropathy, but it isn’t the only way. Early identification of this condition can help limit and reverse the damage. However, even if you’ve been diagnosed with neuropathy for a while, there are still things you can do to help with pain management and prevent things from getting worse.
For example, you can:
- Receive annual check-ups, especially for your feet (where peripheral neuropathy is most likely to appear).
- Follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding medications.
- Make any necessary lifestyle changes that will help manage your condition. Improving your diet, exercise routine, and overall health can have a huge positive impact on your life.
- Speak to your doctor about mechanical aids such as compression socks, braces, and more. These aids can help provide support and comfort to combat diabetic neuropathy.
Viasox — fancy diabetic socks to aid in peripheral neuropathy pain management
For many people living with diabetic neuropathy, foot pain is a common fact of daily life. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to help manage this pain so that you can still do the things you enjoy.
Viasox is proud to offer the world’s first fancy diabetic socks in North America. Our non-binding diabetic socks and diabetic compression socks are specially designed to deliver the right amount of pressure to help reduce swelling and numbness in your feet while improving blood flow and providing foot protection.
Our ultra-stretchy socks are available online in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Shop our selection today to add this must-have tool to your peripheral neuropathy pain management plan.