According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and various other health authorities, as many as 50% of people living with diabetes will develop a complication known as neuropathy. Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can take many different forms. If you’re diabetic, though, the most common is peripheral neuropathy.
Sensory motor peripheral neuropathy can be mildly inconvenient or completely life-changing, depending on what stage you’re in and which symptoms you’re experiencing. While there’s currently no cure for neuropathy, there are several treatments and management options you can use to help ensure that you enjoy the highest quality of life possible.
Keep reading below to learn more about sensory peripheral neuropathy causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention methods.
What is sensory neuropathy?
Neuropathy — or nerve damage — is a common complication of diabetes, and sensory or peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common forms of nerve damage.
Peripheral neuropathy impacts the peripheral nervous system, which comprises all the nerves and muscles outside of the brain and spinal cord. There are several different types of peripheral neuropathy, including:
- Motor neuropathy — Damage to the nerves that control conscious muscle movements.
- Sensory neuropathy — Damage to the nerves that control your senses.
- Autonomic neuropathy — Damage to the nerves that control unconscious bodily functions such as breathing.
Diabetic sensory neuropathy is one of the most common types of nerve disorders.
sensory neuropathy causes
Sensory neuropathy can have many different causes, with one of the most prominent being diabetes. While some neuropathy cases are considered idiopathic (in other words, their cause is unknown), many others can be a result of things such as:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Pressure on a nerve
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Exposure to toxins, chemicals, or poison
- Certain medications
- Physical traumas or injuries
- Vitamin deficiencies
Understanding the root cause of neuropathy is an important step in the treatment process. Once a cause has been isolated, your healthcare provider will be able to formulate an effective treatment plan to help you manage or — in some cases — even reverse the neuropathy.
To diagnose your condition, your doctor will conduct a series of tests, beginning with a physical and neurological exam to determine what symptoms you may be experiencing. Your doctor may also employ further testing to isolate the cause of your neuropathy. Blood tests, EMGs, and nerve conduction studies are all common methods used to help identify neuropathy.
Common peripheral sensory neuropathy symptoms
Sensory peripheral neuropathy affects your sensory nerves, which communicate with your brain to help you feel touch, temperature, and pain. When these nerves are damaged, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pins-and-needles or tingling
- Burning or jabbing pain
- Hypersensitivity to touch or temperature
- Pain throughout the normal course of your day
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or loss of feeling
- Loss of coordination or balance
- Inability to sense the position of your limbs
- Extremities that seem very cold or very hot
- Inability to feel pain, especially in the feet
- Slow-healing wounds
Sensory neuropathy symptoms most often affect the feet and legs, though they can spread as the disease progresses. Symptoms will often become more intense or more frequent as the neuropathy worsens.
The dangers of sensory neuropathy
Sensory neuropathy symptoms can be frustrating when they first appear, but if left untreated, what was once an inconvenience might become truly dangerous. Neuropathy can result in a variety of foot problems and complications, including:
Increasing numbness and loss of feeling is a common symptom of progressing sensory neuropathy. While this may seem like a welcome change over consistent tingling or burning pain, numbness can be dangerous. When paired with muscle loss and weakness, a loss of sensation puts you at risk of tripping or falling, which can make it difficult for you to function and can lead to other serious injuries.
If you sustain injuries on your feet but are too numb to identify them, they could become infected. It's important to check your feet regularly for any wounds, discoloration, or other problems.
One common symptom associated with peripheral neuropathy is numbness and loss of feeling, especially in the feet and legs. Numbness can make it difficult to walk and put you at risk of developing injuries. Because of the lack of sensation, any injuries you obtain can go unnoticed and quickly become serious. When you have neuropathy, it's also difficult to identify when temperatures are too hot or too cold, which can cause further injury.
Sensory neuropathy treatment & prevention
The best way to treat sensory neuropathy is to avoid it. This can often be done by implementing certain lifestyle changes such as exercising daily, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy blood sugar level, and abstaining from alcohol and smoking.
If you do develop sensory neuropathy, don’t lose hope. While most cases of neuropathy are irreversible, there are still many treatment options available to help you manage symptoms and prevent your neuropathy from getting worse. Some common sensory peripheral neuropathy treatments include.
- Medications — Your doctor may prescribe pain relief medications to help combat symptoms such as tingling, numbness, burning, or itching.
- Therapies — Physical therapy is often used to help with neuropathy symptoms such as loss of coordination and balance issues. Other therapies that may help with neuropathy pain include massage or acupuncture.
- Exercise — Excess weight is one of the leading risk factors associated with neuropathy and can also make your current neuropathy symptoms worse. Exercising daily can not only help you manage your weight, but it can also improve your mood, act as a coping mechanism, and mitigate pain. When exercising with neuropathy, however, it’s important to remember to be safe and protect yourself against things like foot injuries and falls.
- Diet changes — What you eat — or don’t eat — may make your neuropathy worse. Diets that are high in carbs, added sugar, processed foods, and trans and saturated fats can all exacerbate diabetes and neuropathy. They can also contribute to other dangerous health conditions such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.
- Managing blood sugar levels – Keeping your blood sugar levels in the ideal range can help prevent more nerve damage from occurring.
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