Can Diabetic Neuropathy Be Reversed?

Can Diabetic Neuropathy Be ReversedWhen you’re living with any painful condition, your hope is that there is a way to cure or reverse the cause of that pain, and your quality of life will be restored. With diabetes, Type 1 is not reversible, while Type 2 can be in certain scenarios. But what about conditions associated with diabetes? Diabetic neuropathy can be extremely painful and difficult to manage. Will the right diabetic neuropathy treatment ultimately cure the condition?

What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Neuropathy itself is a diagnosis that refers to any condition which damages nerve cells, which play an important role in touch, sensation, and movement. When that damage is caused by diabetes, this is known as diabetic neuropathy. This is believed to happen as a result of the high content of blood sugar in a diabetic person, which over time impacts the nerves.

There are multiple forms of neuropathy that can develop in a person with diabetes, including:

  • Peripheral Neuropathy: Pain and numbness in the extremities, including the arms, hands, legs, feet, and toes.
  • Proximal Neuropathy: Pain and numbness in the upper legs, specifically the buttocks, thighs, and hips.
  • Autonomic Neuropathy: The nerves impacted are part of the autonomic nervous system, which controls sexual response, sweating, urinary function, and the digestive tract.
  • Focal Neuropathy: Marked by a sudden loss of function in the nerves, causing pain and weakness in the muscles.

It is estimated that 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes will eventually develop some form of neuropathy.

How Diabetic Neuropathy Is Treated

The body is not able to repair nerve tissues that have been damaged, meaning that diabetic neuropathy cannot be reversed. However, the side effects can be managed, and neuropathy treatment often focuses on preventing further damage from happening.

In addition to treating nerve pain, management of diabetes itself is commonly used as a treatment method. By controlling and lowering blood sugar, less damage will occur in the nerves over time. Each person will have specific methods they use to control their sugar, but it is common to include high fiber foods, foods with healthy fats, and vegetables in the diet while excluding excess sugar. Exercise, insulin, oral medications, and regular monitoring of glucose levels may also be involved in a diabetes management plan.

Because feet are the area most often impacted by diabetic neuropathy, it is also critical to pay attention to the feet and identify signs of nerve damage early. When these nerves become damaged, you may notice less feeling in the foot, which may lead you to not notice injuries like cuts to the foot or even broken bones. It is recommended that anyone with diabetes regularly assess their foot to check for open wounds or sores, clip their toenails, and regularly wash their feet with soap and water. It is also recommended to avoid walking barefoot when possible.

Pain management is usually accomplished with a mix of topical medications and oral medications. Some prescription drugs for other conditions are also used off-label as they are believed to manage symptoms.

Complications from Diabetic Neuropathy

Even though the condition can’t be reversed, it’s important to seek diabetic neuropathy treatment to prevent the worsening of the nerve damage over time. Because of nerves’ important roles in the body, this damage could cause a range of complications if it is not managed.

Some of these complications are:

Digestive Issues: Organs in the body can be impacted by nerve damage, leading to nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. When the movement of food through your digestive tract is impacted, it can lead to poor nutrition and make glucose levels even harder to manage.

Sexual Dysfunction: Autonomic neuropathy can impact sexual organs, causing erectile dysfunction in males and problems with arousal or vaginal lubrication in females. Both sexes may have impairments in their ability to become stimulated.

Excess or Reduced Sweating: Sweating is a critical bodily function that helps with toxin release and temperature regulation. Either too much or too little sweat can make these functions difficult and lead to issues over time. When the sweat glands are damaged, this is likely to occur.

Urinary Problems: Nerves play a critical role in the function of the bladder and urinary system. If these nerves are damaged, it can cause the body to lose the ability to recognize when the bladder is full, leading to poor control of urination.

Proper management of diabetic neuropathy is critical to avoid these and other serious complications.