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Exploring the Four Types of Diabetic Neuropathy: Symptoms and Treatments

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A woman with a pained expression and dark hair leans on her hand with her eyes closed as her fingertips graze her head.

Millions of people suffer from diabetic neuropathy each year—some experts estimate up to fifteen million of them. Neuropathy can be an extremely painful condition, ranging from a dull ache to sharp, stabbing pain and numbness in the extremities. It can even cause loss of hearing and sight. It’s caused by many different underlying conditions including:

  • diabetes
  • alcoholism
  • tumors
  • compressed nerves
  • side effects from certain medications
  • trauma or injury
  • as well as a host of other conditions.

When the cause of the neuropathy is unknown, it is referred to as idiopathic neuropathy.  This article will focus on diabetic neuropathy, which is one of the most well-known types.

The Four Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a highly individual disease with each person experiencing the effects differently. Not every diabetic contracts neuropathy. Those who do may experience mild effects, while others will suffer severe consequences. Many people talk about diabetic neuropathy in generic terms, not realizing that there are four different types.

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves of the peripheral nervous system become damaged. It typically effects the extremities of the body including:

  • legs
  • feet
  • toes
  • arms
  • hands
  • and fingers.

This type of diabetic neuropathy can cause the burning, numbness and stabbing pain that many people associate with diabetes.

Cranial neuropathy is a condition effecting one or more of the twelve cranial nerves that exit the brain.  There are two types of this kind of diabetic neuropathy: optic and auditory. Optic neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve, and can cause loss of sight. Auditory neuropathy affects the ability to hear, and occurs when there is damage to the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain.

Focal neuropathy is when there is damage to single nerves in a particular part of the body, most often the head, torso, hand, or leg. This type of diabetic neuropathy is less common than the others, but can affect the diabetic in several areas of the body. Symptoms can include:

  • compression of nerves causing carpal tunnel
  • paralysis on part of the face
  • difficulty focusing the eyes
  • double vision
  • numbness
  • and tingling

Autonomic neuropathy refers to damage to the involuntary nervous system. This type of diabetic neuropathy affects:

  • perspiration
  • digestion
  • bowel and bladder function
  • sexual efficacy
  • blood pressure
  • and heart and circulation.

Symptoms vary according to the organs and systems affected, but can include things such as high blood pressure, loss of bowel and bladder function, poor heart health, and reduced circulation.

How Do You Treat Diabetic Neuropathy?

As diabetic neuropathy is itself a symptom of diabetes, it is common for healthcare providers to focus on the underlying cause in an attempt to minimize the repercussions from neuropathy. The aim is to restore function as much as possible, and to slow progression.

Treatment will also depend, in large part, on the specific type, or types, of neuropathy present. For focal neuropathy, for instance, braces for the hands and arms might be used to take pressure off the nerve, or anti-inflammatory medications might be prescribed. Pain medications can be prescribed, as well as injections or medications for sexual dysfunction, diet changes for bowel problems, or catheterization for bladder issues. In addition, keeping the blood sugar under control, within the range specified by the physician, is of utmost importance for diabetics, as well as achieving a healthy weight, and keeping blood pressure under control.

Aside from all of these treatments, however, is another source of potential relief that many people do not even realize is a viable option, and that is through seeking the services of a chiropractor. Research has proven that chiropractic care can be effective in reducing the pain and symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy.

How a Chiropractor Can Treat Diabetic Neuropathy

Chiropractors take a whole person-centered approach, working with each individual patient to develop a course of treatment specific to their needs. A chiropractor will complete an oral and physical assessment to get to the root of your diabetic neuropathy and will make appropriate recommendations accordingly.

Musculoskeletal and nervous system health are among the cornerstones of chiropractic care, along with alignment of the spine. Since all of the peripheral nerves branch off from the spinal cord and brain, it is easy to imagine the damage that might occur if the spine becomes injured or out of alignment. Some of the specific treatments a chiropractor might administer include spinal realignment/adjustment, medical massage, and strengthening exercises. They will most likely also complete an assessment of your daily activities, including work habits, hobbies, level of activity, and other daily actions that might impact or cause a compressed nerve. Simple adjustments to these daily activities can also make a significant difference in managing the symptoms of your diabetic neuropathy.

One of the benefits of utilizing a chiropractor to help combat your diabetic neuropathy is that it is one of the more affordable options. Chiropractic care is often covered by insurance, and even in cases where it is not, it is still less costly than many of the other choices. It is less risky and stressful than surgery, and does not involve any expensive medications with unwanted side effects. The best part is that working with a chiropractor does not mean you have to discontinue treatments with other providers. Your chiropractor can work as a valuable member of your healthcare team.

Consult with a Chiropractor Today

If you are experiencing diabetic neuropathy, consider consulting a chiropractor to help alleviate your symptoms. Your chiropractor may be able to suggest some treatment options you have not yet explored. The first step to pain relief is easier than you think. Not only can a chiropractor help with your neuropathy, but also with any additional back pain you may be experiencing.

If you are interested in learning more about seeing a chiropractor to treat your diabetic neuropathy, please contact A Family Chiropractic Clinic at (940) 566-0000. Our experienced staff can provide a full evaluation along with the information necessary to make the best treatment decision for your needs. Our team has your best interest at heart. We want to treat your pain while also helping you regain your quality of life. We also strive to create a treatment plan that works for your lifestyle and needs.

Call A Family Chiropractic Clinic today at (940) 566-0000 to learn more about treating your diabetic neuropathy with chiropractic treatments.