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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Diabetes on Your Nerves!


The damage that diabetes can do to your nerves is worse, in some ways, than the harm to kidneys, and the heart. This is because a doctor can detect even slight kidney or heart damage, and take corrective steps. We have a spare kidney because we can live with just one-this gives some margin for error. Similarly, we can live well even if a part of a heart is damaged. Nerves do not regenerate, no part of the peripheral system is redundant, and doctors do not have precise measures for the early signs of damage. Therefore, patients with diabetes have to be sanguine about nerve damage in their own interests

Nerve damage is known in medicine as a neuropathy, and every part of the body is susceptible in diabetes. Doctors measure blood glucose at fixed times, or at best, the average over a 60-day period. There could be intervals of high or low blood glucose which a doctor cannot detect, though a patient may know about it, because he or she has deviated from a prescription for a day or more in-between clinic visits. Every spell of glucose going between the normal ranges in blood does harm to parts of the nervous system. The tests which are available for finding out whether a nerve has been damaged are site specific. We can, for example, find out if a nerve which serves a foot has been damaged, but the test will not tell us about the rest of the nervous system. It is not practical to test every corner of the nervous system, and hence a lot of damage has occurred already, before a doctor gets the first clue.

The chances of high or low blood glucose episodes increase as one spends increasing time in diabetes. This means that people in who diabetes has been detected relatively late, those who encounter diabetes early in life, and those who tend to lapse in observing their prescriptions, are all vulnerable to some degrees of nerve damage.

The best way to contain nerve damage to diabetes is to take a form of insulin which acts very closely to a normal pancreas. This kind of approach is able to adjust, at least in some measure, to changes in diet and exercise routines, as well as to instances of injuries and infections. Medicine is on the threshold of such systems, and the ones which are available are relatively expensive. It is worth asking your doctor about the possibility of switching over to such a system, to reduce the chances of nerve damage due to diabetes.

Another more conventional approach is to exercise special vigilance. The toes and feet should be the first target, because peripheral nerves at extremities are often the first to show signs of damage. You can run a feather or a brush very lightly over your toes to check whether you can feel the sensations. A tingling feeling or episodes of pain in the feet could also signal nerve damage. People with diabetes have to be fastidious about pedicures, avoid naked exposure of their feet, and have someone check them every day for sores, blisters, and minor injuries. Nerve damage in diabetes can prevent us from knowing in time if a foot has an infection or has been damaged.

Muscular weakness, digestive upsets, dizzy spells with drastic blood pressure changes when standing up or lying down, unplanned weight loss, and depression, are other signs of possible nerve damage, which you must discuss with your doctor.

Homeopathy has a number of herbal and inorganic agents which are said to protect nerves from damage. These preparations will not reverse diabetes, but they can serve a useful role in diabetes management. The benefits claimed are anecdotal and not validated with the same rigor as applied to modern medicine. Nevertheless, it is in order to ask you doctor for approval to use this kind of Complementary Medicine. I will be happy to make suggestions provided that you do not take such medicine on your own.

Have you had your feet checked today?


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