For anyone living with diabetes, understanding the different stages of neuropathy is a must for keeping your feet and legs as healthy as possible.
As the number of people living with the disease continues to increase year after year, more people are at risk of developing diabetic neuropathy (which causes impaired sensation caused by chronically elevated blood glucose levels). Current research indicates that up to 50% of all people with diabetes experience symptoms of the early stages of diabetic neuropathy.
To tackle this growing epidemic, education about the different stages of peripheral neuropathy needs to be more accessible to people across the country. With this in mind, we created this blog as a resource for anyone looking to learn more about the different symptoms and treatment options for each stage, so you can better tailor your treatment plan to your specific care needs.
Here is everything you need to know about the stages of neuropathy:
What is diabetic neuropathy?
To better understand the stages of diabetic neuropathy, we first must first explore how diabetes impacts the health of our neurological system. Composed of millions of susceptible and fragile neurons, our nervous system is responsible for conducting information to our spinal cord and brain, and back in order for us to move and feel all parts of our bodies. When this system is in balance, even our most peripheral limbs (like our feet and toes) can move and feel sensations as needed throughout the day.
But, because our nervous system is susceptible to changes within the body, it is incredibly common for people living with diabetes to develop neurological symptoms. Diabetes, an endocrine disorder associated with limited production or ineffective use of the hormone insulin, is known for its impact on a person’s blood glucose levels. Created in the pancreas, insulin is responsible for taking excess glucose (the energy source from our food) out of our bloodstream to store for later use. In people living with diabetes, the impaired function of insulin prevents this from occurring, resulting in chronically high blood glucose levels.
Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause significant damage to the vital organs as well as other medical comorbidities such as swelling and edema, visual impairment, high blood pressure, and diabetic neuropathy. Being able to identify early symptoms and implementing personalized treatment plans early into the disease are two of the most important aspects in the battle against diabetic neuropathy.
The earlier the diagnosis, the more effective the treatment!
What are the stages of neuropathy?
Like other medical conditions, symptoms of neuropathy do not appear overnight. As a progressive disease, diabetic neuropathy commonly moves through stages, starting from mild to moderate symptoms and moving towards more advanced stages of neuropathy if no interventions or treatments are implemented.
Commonly divided into five identifiable stages, the specific symptoms and treatment options available for each stage of diabetic neuropathy change as the disease progresses.
This is the first stage of peripheral neuropathy that almost all people who develop the disease will experience. In the beginning stages of neuropathy, it is common for symptoms to be incredibly mild — so mild that many people do not consider them to be part of a more serious problem. The most common symptoms of early-stage foot neuropathy are slight numbness or pain to the toes and sole of the feet.
During stage one of the disease, most symptoms are NOT consistent, meaning they will frequently come and go. As the disease progresses, symptoms will become more frequent and will increase in severity as well. Treatment for stage one diabetic neuropathy is rare, and most patients do not seek medical attention for their symptoms until they have progressed past this stage.
The bottom line
If you or someone you love has been experiencing even mild changes to the sensation and feeling of their lower extremities, we highly advise speaking to a medical provider. The early diabetic neuropathy can be detected, the more effective treatment opens can be, which will result in less long-term damage.
As the second phase of early-stage diabetic foot neuropathy, it is common for people to experience more consistent symptoms that begin to impair a person’s ability to participate in daily activities. While it can be challenging to know precisely when a person shifts from stage one to stage two of diabetic neuropathy, increased numbness and pain are the most commonly identified symptoms.
During these first two stages, early diagnosis and treatment are some of the best ways to slow and possibly reverse some of the damage done to the nerves of the feet and lower extremities. Standard treatment options include increased daily exercise, vigilant monitoring of a person’s blood glucose levels, and possibly over-the-counter pain medication as needed.
The bottom line
Treatment of symptoms during this stage of diabetic neuropathy is highly effective in reducing the risk of long-term effects of the disease. If you notice increased pain or numbness to your feet and lower legs, be sure to talk to your primary healthcare professional about potential treatment options.
As the mid-way point of disease progression, the symptoms of stage three are easier to identify. During this stage, it is common for the person to experience chronic pain and numbness on a near-daily basis, often interfering with their ability to partake in their regular daily routine.
Also referred to as “hypersensitivity,” the nerves in the feet and toes are incredibly sensitive to even the lightest touch (like putting on socks or sleeping with a sheet that touches the top of the feet.) This can cause significant interruptions in a person’s daily life, as over-the-counter pain medications are often unable to help cover the often extreme pain associated with stage three of diabetic neuropathy.
Treatment for this stage of neuropathy is dependent on the person’s specific needs. Lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, prescription pain medications, and the use of diabetic socks are all examples of possible interventions that your primary care provider may add to your treatment plan.
The bottom line
During stage three, the pain in your feet and lower legs may become unbearable. Whenever possible, sticking to your treatment plan and reducing chronic stress are some of the best ways to manage the pain as best as possible.
During stage four, the pain and hypersensitivity felt in the previous stage is replaced by chronic and profound numbness throughout your feet and lower legs. As a result of permanent nerve damage and death caused by chronically high blood sugar levels, the nerves in the feet can no longer properly transmit the information needed to create sensation to the area.
While the numbness is often only located in specific areas of the foot during this stage (often the tops of the toes or the bottom of the feet), the loss of sensation can lead to significant impairments in balance and function. It is common for people in this stage of diabetic neuropathy to require walking aids to reduce the risk of falling or feeling unbalanced due to a lack of feeling in their feet.
When it comes to treatment, it is essential that patients seek medical attention if they are experiencing any of the symptoms of stage four diabetic neuropathy. Close monitoring and adjustment to your treatment plan by your primary care provider will be essential in slowing the progression of the disease to the final stage.
The bottom line
The damage to the peripheral nerves during this stage is often permanent, with little chance of long-term improvement. This being said, sticking to your treatment plan is imperative to reduce your risk of progressing into late-stage diabetic neuropathy, which is even more challenging to manage.
As the final stage of neuropathy, this phase of the disease is associated with complete and total loss of feeling to the lower legs and feet. Caused by long-term exposure to high blood sugar levels, the peripheral nerves are now significantly damaged and are not likely to regain many functions or feeling with treatment.
Seeing as so much of how we interact in the world is dependent on touch and feel, complete numbness in the feet can make walking (even assisted with a walking aid) incredibly difficult. It is common for people living with this stage of diabetic neuropathy to require additional support and care from family or medical staff to complete their daily activities.
Treatment for the final stage of diabetic neuropathy is focused on symptom management rather than improvement. Finding ways to improve mobility, manage blood sugar levels, wear high-quality diabetic socks, and maintain independence are essential aspects of care for people with stage five diabetic neuropathy.
The bottom line
As the final stage of the disease, it is often very disheartening for patients to be diagnosed with stage five diabetic neuropathy. Whenever possible, taking care of your physical and mental health as best as possible while living with this condition is a great way to keep yourself as happy and healthy as possible.
How diabetic socks can help treat diabetic neuropathy
So how can diabetic socks help in the management of diabetic neuropathy? As an often recommended accessory for people living with the disease, diabetic socks are designed to offer comfort, protection, and style to your feet.
Known for offering many health benefits, some of the most common reasons why people wear diabetic socks include their ability to:
- Provide padding and protection to the feet to prevent injuries and infections
- Keep the feet dry with their moisture-wicking technology
- Protect against odor and infections due to their antibacterial capabilities
- Apply mild pressure to the lower extremities to support healthy blood flow
- Add effortless style and flair to your wardrobe
Always made from high-quality textiles such as cotton, lycra, polyester, and bamboo charcoal, Viasox diabetic socks have been specifically designed to support the health and function of your feet and lower extremities. Able to stretch to accommodate a calf circumference of over 30 inches, we are confident that our diabetic socks will not leave uncomfortable and painful compression marks on your legs after a full day of use. Diabetic socks are a popular product for a wide variety of people, including:
- People living with any stage of diabetic neuropathy
- People who have swelling or edema in the feet and lower extremities
- Anyone who experiences recurrent foot injuries or infections
- People who have particularly sweaty or wet feet
- Anyone battling chronic or recurrent foot infections
Known for being the first brand to offer fancy diabetic socks across the country, our team at Viasox wants to help you find the perfect pair (or more) of diabetic socks to add to your collection. Pursue our entire selection of ankle, knee-length, and compression socks online today and benefit from fast and convenient delivery country-wide.
Shop our collection of diabetic socks online today
At Viasox, we are committed to helping our customers find high-quality diabetic socks that make a difference in treating any stage of diabetic neuropathy. As a leading provider of diabetic socks proudly made in North America, our entire selection of products is created with maximal comfort and style in mind.
Whether you are looking for classic black or white diabetic socks to add to your collection or want to add some personality to your feet with dynamic and fun patterns, we have got you covered. With bulk and individual pairs available for purchase through our online store, gaining access to quality diabetic socks is as easy as a few simple clicks.
Shop our entire range of fancy diabetic socks online today and experience the difference that quality Viasox products can make.
Need some additional assistance with your online order, or have a question for our customer service team? We would be happy to help. Please feel free to reach out to us through our online contact form with any of your most pressing inquiries. We look forward to helping you find your new go-to pair of diabetic socks!