Can Nerve Damage Caused By Diabetes Be Reversed?
Nerve damage caused by diabetes is known as neuropathy. It can cause tingling, numbness, and pain in the extremities, but it can also cause problems with various organs.
Neuropathy is a common occurrence in people with diabetes and is seen in about 70 percent of patients in some form or another. It tends to increase as the patient ages or as the length of time they’ve been diabetic increases. Neuropathy is also more likely to occur in patients with high blood pressure and weight problems.
There are different forms of neuropathy including peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, proximal neuropathy, and focal neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy (sometimes called distal symmetric or sensorimotor neuropathy) affects the nerves in the arms and legs while autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves in the heart and other internal organs.
Proximal neuropathy, also known as lumbosacral plexus neuropathy or femoral neuropathy, affects the legs, hips, and buttocks. Finally, focal neuropathy affects the nerves in the legs, torso, and head.
Can nerve damage caused by diabetes be reversed? It remains unclear. Studies are ongoing and the debate continues, but there are, in fact, things you can do to prevent and treat neuropathy.
While nerve damage is quite common in people with diabetes, there are things you can do to prevent the different forms of neuropathy from affecting you. Some obvious prevention measures include controlling your diabetes through medication, proper diet, and regular exercise.
Changing your diet to include more lean proteins and healthy fats (like olive oil) while limiting your carbohydrates and switching to organic produce, can help keep diabetes under control. You should also avoid alcohol as it tends to worsen neuropathy symptoms that are already present. A good diabetic diet and meal plan can be found inside David Andrews’ Diabetes Destroyer. See NewspaperCat.org for an excellent review of the program.
There are also supplements you can take to protect your nerves. These often work differently for everyone, so it’s wise to consult your doctor for recommendations. Generally speaking, alpha lipoic acid (an antioxidant), L-arginine (an amino acid), Omega-3s and Omega-6s, and B-vitamins are prescribed in conjunction with a healthy diet to stave off neuropathy.
If neuropathy has already set in, there are still things you can do to treat the damage and improve the symptoms. The first thing to do is to maintain proper blood sugar levels so no further nerve damage occurs. This can be done through medication, diet changes, and consistent blood sugar monitoring.
For the pain associated with neuropathy, oral medications can be prescribed. These medications can range from antidepressants to strong opioids and anticonvulsants. They are sometimes prescribed in combination to treat multiple symptoms. Most doctors warn against taking over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen because they come with side effects that can make your neuropathy worse.
There are also topical treatments like lidocaine patches and certain creams that can ease the symptoms, especially those in the feet. In addition to medications and topical solutions, there are also external items that can be used to help keep you comfortable.
For example, there are bed cradles that keep your bedsheets from touching your feet and legs while you sleep. These are especially good for diabetics who are hypersensitive. Alternative therapies like acupuncture, magnetic therapy, and light therapy may also work to alleviate symptoms associated with neuropathy.
Studies continue to find new ways to treat neuropathy and the associated symptoms, but currently there is no concrete evidence to show nerve damage caused by diabetes can be reversed. However, it can most definitely be controlled, managed, and largely prevented.