Health Concerns

Neuropathy (Diabetic)

“Diabetic neuropathy” is the incremental reduction in nerve fiber function as a result of exposure to elevated blood sugar levels (typically, over many years in type 1 diabetes, and sometimes after only a relatively short time in type 2 diabetes). It can be one of the most frustrating complications of diabetes, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe tingling or burning in the extremities. Diabetic neuropathy represents a challenge for both patients and physicians. Not only does this diabetic complication have the potential to severely impact quality of life for people it affects, but it can be very difficult for physicians to treat effectively (National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse 2009; Topiwala 2012).

Although diabetic neuropathy typically causes problems with the peripheral nerves (those in the extremities), it can affect any nerve in the body. It may cause problems with a variety of everyday tasks, such as walking, getting dressed, and eating. Also, it may cause digestive problems. Diabetic neuropathy can also cause loss of sensation in the arms and legs, making patients unaware when they step on something sharp, develop blisters or small cuts, or touch very hot or cold objects (Topiwala 2012; Medline Plus 2012; National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse 2009). Estimates suggest that approximately 40% to 70% of diabetics will develop diabetic neuropathy (Yagihashi 2007; Boulton 2012; Callaghan 2012a; National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse 2009; Feldman 2012a).

Diabetic neuropathy occurs in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and the risk increases with age and duration of diabetes (Boulton 2012; Edwards 2008). It can be a complex condition, as some people will have significant signs of nerve damage on a physical exam but experience no deficits in everyday life, while others will have only mild deficits on a physical exam but experience severe symptoms, particularly at night (Boulton 2012).

Diabetic neuropathy can be debilitating as the pain and loss of sensation are difficult to treat with conventional therapies (National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse 2009; Topiwala 2012). However, since elevated blood glucose is one of the primary forces driving its development and progression, those affected by diabetic neuropathy have the power to influence the course of this disease through diet and exercise (Callaghan 2012b; Bril 2012; Unger 2007).

In this protocol you will learn how chronically elevated glucose levels damage nerves and give rise to the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. You will also learn about how this complication of diabetes is diagnosed and treated by conventional medicine; research initiatives that may give rise to new, more effective treatments in the not-to-distant future will also be discussed. In addition, the critical role of dietary and lifestyle modification will be reviewed, and several scientifically studied natural interventions that may benefit those affected by diabetic neuropathy will be outlined.

Since diabetic neuropathy goes hand in hand with diabetes, which is often accompanied by obesity, readers are encouraged to review the Life Extension® protocols for Diabetes and Obesity and Weight Loss.