Diabetes is a lifestyle disorder that requires a lot of lifestyle tweaks, including being disciplined about diet and fitness, lest it leads to other health issues, often supplementary in nature. It is important for diabetics to know about something called ‘peripheral neuropathy’, which is a diabetes-linked health complication, in addition to kidney problems, vascular and cardiac diseases.
What is peripheral neuropathy?
Dr Sachin Pawar, head, medical affairs-India cluster at Procter & Gamble Health explains peripheral neuropathy to be a result of damaged peripheral nerves that cause a tingling sensation and a feeling of numbness in hands and feet.
“Our peripheral nerves serve different motor, sensory and autonomic functions in our body. When peripheral neuropathy is not detected and managed at an early stage, it can lead to long-term consequences like chronic pain, loss of sensation and irreversible nerve damage affecting quality of life,” he states, adding that as per studies, almost 50 per cent of adults suffering from diabetes are likely to be affected by peripheral neuropathy in their lifetime.
Per the doctor, the clinical observations for this condition differ from person to person. “While some are asymptomatic, others experience acute painful neuropathic symptoms,” he says.
Dr Pawar adds that the most common symptoms experienced are tingling sensation, a feeling of numbness, burning and prickling sensations in hands and feet, and that diabetic peripheral neuropathy “may lead to foot ulcers, which make regular screenings and treatment rather imperative”.
“The painful symptoms experienced frequently result in clinical manifestations like anxiety, depression, reduced life quality and sleep disorders that are often misinterpreted and disrupt the quality of life. Even the symptoms of neuropathy are overlooked,” he states.
Peripheral neuropathy in diabetics
According to Dr Pawar, studies conducted in the past suggest that up to 50 per cent of diabetic peripheral neuropathy patients are asymptomatic, because of which the condition remains “undiagnosed and leads to insensate injury”.
Why timely diagnosis is important
“Early intervention is the key to improving patient care and reducing healthcare costs. Spreading awareness on this condition is the need of the hour given that the symptoms are often not taken seriously by patients,” the doctor states. He adds that watching out for symptoms, seeking medical advice at an early phase and regular screenings can take care of the condition, without letting it get to the “irreversible stage”.
“Neurotropic B vitamins have been effective for the management of peripheral neuropathy, as they have the potential to delay the onset of symptoms, improve nerve function. These vitamins play a significant role in the repair of damaged nerves,” Dr Pawar explains.
He suggests consulting a doctor to understand the condition better, besides keeping a close watch on our lifestyle — food intake, regular physical activity.