Neuropathy means pathology of the nerves or nerve damage. Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage seen in patients of diabetes and prevails in about 70% of patients who have had diabetes for over 20 yrs. It is caused due to reduced blood supply to the nerve or its segment, which occurs due to atherosclerosis, another complication of diabetes. This results in nerve damage and loss of nerve function.
What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
As explained in complications of diabetes, blood vessels in a diabetic patient get clogged and this results in reduced blood supply to the particular part of the body, which that blood vessel supplies.
When the blood vessel supplying blood to a particular nerve or its segment gets clogged, blood supply to that nerve gets drastically reduced or blocked. This results in reduced functioning of that nerve, giving rise to neuropathy. Thus, depending on the site of the nerve, the symptoms present themselves. Usually, diabetic neuropathy damages the peripheral nerves of the lower extremities – the hands and feet.
Diabetic neuropathy causes and risk factors
There are various common causes and risk factors of diabetic neuropathy. Long term exposure to high blood sugar levels destroys the delicate nerve fibers and weakens the walls of the capillaries, which supply blood and nutrients to the nerves.
- Metabolic causes such as long-standing diabetes and high levels of fats in the blood cause diabetic neuropathy.
- Vascular causes resulting in damage to the blood vessels, which supply the nerve
- Damage to the nerve itself due to some external factors
- Smoking and Alcohol use causes damage to both the nerves and blood vessels
- In some persons, there is an inherent tendency of nerve weakness (genetic causes)
- Some autoimmune factors which result in nerve weakness
- Being overweight or obese increases you risk of diabetes and diabetic neuropathy
- Diabetes is known to cause kidney damage. This increases certain toxins in the blood, which can cause diabetic neuropathy.