The most common type of nerve disease
(neuropathy) affects both sensory nerves, which send information to the spinal
cord and brain, and motor nerves, which relay impulses from the brain and
spinal cord to move muscles. This is called diabetic peripheral
Diabetes also affects the nerves that control
involuntary body functions, such as digestion. This is called diabetic
Diabetes can affect single nerves. This is
called diabetic focal neuropathy.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy
neuropathy, people experience a decrease in sensation or even numbness as well
as difficulty moving the feet and, later on, the fingers and hands. As a result
of this neuropathy, many people with diabetes cannot feel when they have
injured their feet, and they may not know if calluses or ulcers form. Because
of the risk of serious foot injury and infection, it is very important that
people with diabetes learn how to examine their feet daily, wear shoes that fit
well, and protect their feet from injury.
How can you get your daily chocolate fix -- and eat less sugar or calories,
too? That's a million-dollar question that several companies are banking on
people asking. Over the past few years, the sugar-free and portion-controlled
chocolate market has exploded. There are all sorts of sugar-free versions of
favorite chocolate bars. And you can now buy individually wrapped chocolate
bars or sticks in 60- to 100-calorie portions, along with the ever-popular
To help you decide among all...
Sometimes, single nerves
can be affected by diabetes (focal neuropathy). These nerves may be peripheral, such
as the nerves in the legs and arms, or cranial, such as the nerves that control
When single nerves become affected, the result is
weakness or paralysis of the muscles controlled by the nerves. Usually these
motor nerve neuropathies resolve by themselves over a period of several
Diabetic autonomic neuropathy
Diabetes can affect
the autonomic nervous system, which are nerves that we can't consciously
control. The autonomic nervous system controls many aspects of the body's
functioning, such as heart rate and blood pressure, the workings of the
gastrointestinal system, and sexual function.
When the autonomic nerves regulating the heart
and blood vessels are affected, a person's heart rate and blood pressure may
fluctuate abnormally or may not rise appropriately in response to a stimulus
such as exercise. Sometimes, people who have diabetes can experience fainting
spells because their blood pressure drops rapidly.
nerves affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) system control the way these organs
contract and relax in order to move food along. When the nerves that cause the
stomach to contract and move food are affected, it is called diabetic
gastroparesis. Sometimes the effects on the GI system becomes so severe that a
person has to be fed through a feeding tube placed in the small intestine,
bypassing the stomach. When diabetes damages these nerves, a wide range of
symptoms can result, including:
A sensation of food getting stuck because
of problems with how the esophagus contracts and relaxes.
and vomiting because of problems with the stomach.
When the urinary system is affected, emptying
of the bladder may be delayed or incomplete. This increases the chances of
developing a urinary tract infection. Severely prolonged bladder emptying
(urinary retention) can lead to urinary incontinence and, sometimes, fluid
backup into the kidneys.
When the nerves in the sexual organs are
affected, sexual difficulties develop. Diabetes can cause problems in the
autonomic nerves that allow a man to achieve an erection and ejaculate. Women
may experience vaginal dryness.
Autonomic symptoms can be helped by medicines. For
problems with low blood pressure (hypotension), your doctor may prescribe
midodrine (ProAmatine). Metoclopramide, which causes the stomach to contract,
can be used to treat diabetic digestive system problems. Urinary retention can
be treated with a medicine called bethanechol, or by using a catheter. Penile
implants and pumps or medicines such as sildenafil citrate (Viagra) may help
men with erectile dysfunction related to autonomic neuropathy. Viagra cannot be
taken by people who have severe heart problems nor by people who take certain
heart medicines. Talk with your doctor before taking medicine for erectile
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
May 13, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this
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