Over half of all patients with type 2 diabetes will develop diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), a condition caused by damage to nerves on the surface of the skin. While this complication is typical in patients who have been living with diabetes for some time, research indicates that health and lifestyle factors have a much bigger impact on the development of DPN than the progression of the disease.
Factors That Increase the Likelihood of Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy occurs in both large and small nerves, affecting your body’s ability to feel pain and temperature, detect touch or pressure, or even keep your balance. Symptoms are different for each patient, but the most common include numbness, shocks, pain, or other sensory disturbances where nerve fibers are the longest—such as the feet, hands, legs and arms.
DPN is most likely to occur in patients who:
- Smoke cigarettes. Smoking constricts the blood vessels and makes it more difficult for blood to circulate freely in the body, and can double a patient’s risk of developing diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
- Are overweight. Obesity and high triglyceride levels are known factors in the development of DPN in patients with diabetes.
- Have high blood pressure. According to a report published in the journal Medicine, a nine-year study of more than 37,000 people with type 2 diabetes showed that elevated blood pressure increased DPN risk from 11% to 65%.
- Have high cholesterol. It has been shown that high levels of dangerous LDL cholesterol, as well as low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, also increase the risk for diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Unfortunately, medical science has shown that symptoms of DPN may begin even in the early stage of the disease. A recent study performed by doctors at the University of Toronto study found that about half of patients with prediabetes or newly-diagnosed type 2 diabetes showed signs of peripheral neuropathy. While the risk of DPN does rise with age, even children and young adults with both forms of diabetes can develop peripheral neuropathy.
If you are having sensory problems in your feet due to diabetes complications, the foot and ankle specialists at Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry are here to help. Call our office today at (301) 515-3338 or fill out our contact form to get started.