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Why Is Diabetes the Main Cause of Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy — part of a larger group of neuromuscular disorders — affects at least 20 million Americans. The actual estimates are likely higher because not everyone is tested for the condition. That’s because diabetes is the main cause of peripheral neuropathy, and unfortunately, 20% of people with diabetes don’t know they have it. If they don’t know they have diabetes, they may not have been diagnosed with nerve damage yet. 

If you experience tingling, burning sensations, or numbness (the signs of neuropathy), don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our team of neurology specialists here at Link Neuroscience Institute treats peripheral neuropathy in our Oxnard and Santa Barbara, California, locations. 

In the meantime, continue reading to learn how diabetes contributes to nerve damage.

How elevated blood sugar affects your nerves

Diabetes can contribute to nerve damage in several ways:

High blood sugar damages your blood vessels and your nerves

When you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels are elevated because insulin isn’t moving the glucose out of your blood vessels properly. This can lead to too much glucose in your bloodstream, and while that profoundly damages your blood vessels, the high blood sugar also damages your nerves. Prolonged blood sugar is particularly hard on your extremities, where peripheral nerves are more vulnerable.

Not only do high blood sugar levels damage your nerves, but the damaged blood vessels further complicate matters. Normally, you have small blood vessels that supply nutrients to nerves, but if they’re damaged, it can deprive your nerves of oxygen and nutrients, which only adds to nerve dysfunction. 

Diabetes can lead to the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

High glucose levels in your bloodstream can result in the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These substances accumulate in nerve tissues and lead to inflammation and oxidative stress. Your body’s immune response to this increased inflammation can inadvertently target and damage nerves.

Note: dietary AGEs can also add to inflammation responses in your body.

Diabetes can lead to impaired nerve signal

Diabetes can disrupt the intricate balance of nerve signal transmission. Nerves rely on precise signaling to communicate sensations, movements, and other functions to your brain. Elevated glucose levels can interfere with this signaling process. In other words, diabetes can make it hard for your nerves to send messages how they are designed to.

How to prevent peripheral neuropathy if you have diabetes

While diabetes is a significant risk factor for peripheral neuropathy, proactive measures can mitigate your risks, reduce the impact of neuropathy if you have it,  and help slow the progression of this condition. 

The following strategies can help reduce your risk of issues:

If you do develop neuropathy, know that you have options. Here at Link Neuroscience Institute, our team specializes in treating several different types of neuropathy, including diabetic neuropathy. Depending on your needs, our team may suggest physical therapy,  lifestyle modifications, structured exercise, medications, interventional therapies, or minimally invasive surgery such as nerve decompression.

If you have questions about peripheral neuropathy, call the location of your choice to speak with our friendly staff. Or you can also schedule your next appointment online.

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