In the United States, one in 10 (approximately 34 million) people have diabetes. The majority of them, around 90% to 95%, suffer from type 2 diabetes. The rest have type 1 diabetes.
To make matters worse, up to half of all people with diabetes also have diabetic neuropathy. That makes this nerve condition the most common complication in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
With diabetic neuropathy’s prevalence, experts are looking into the possibility of reversing it. Through studies, they aim to answer the question—can diabetic neuropathy be reversed?
Ready to learn what science has to say about this diabetes-related nerve dysfunction? Then let’s get right into it!
What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?
In people with diabetes, the blood glucose (sugar) level goes beyond 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L). In comparison, it’s only 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) in people without diabetes.
Unfortunately, high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves throughout the body. These injuries are what you call diabetic neuropathy. In most cases, this diabetic nerve dysfunction affects the nerves in the legs and feet.
Can Diabetic Neuropathy Be Reversed?
The consensus is that established or long-term diabetic neuropathy is poorly reversible. In more severe cases, the damage can even be irreversible. At this point, the goal of diabetic neuropathy treatment is to manage symptoms.
However, studies have also shown that early intervention can halt diabetic neuropathy. Reversing its effects is possible if the intervention occurs at a much earlier stage. This means that the condition shouldn’t have reached the threshold of irreversibility yet.
Early Diagnosis—A Crucial Key to Reversing Diabetic Neuropathy
As mentioned above, half of those with diabetes deal with diabetic neuropathy. So, if you have diabetes, you have a one-in-two chance of developing this nerve condition. To help you reduce your risks, it’s important to keep in touch with your endocrinologist.
With regular endocrinologist visits, your doctor can stay on top of your diabetes. This gives the specialist sufficient time to see if there’s any change to your condition. You may then undergo tests like nerve conduction velocity (NCV) or electromyography (EMG).
These tests can help diagnose diabetic neuropathy as they check your nerve functions. For instance, NCV measures how long your nerves take to transmit signals. If they take too long to send these chemical messages, that may be a sign of diabetic neuropathy.
Signs That Should Prompt You to See the Doc ASAP
You don’t have to wait for your scheduled check-up to visit your endocrinologist. See your doctor as soon as you notice any pain, weakness, tingling, or numbness in your hands or feet. These are the earliest signs of peripheral neuropathy.
If you have diabetic neuropathy pain, your doctor may ask you to buy Neurontin (gabapentin). Your diabetes specialist may also prescribe you pregabalin medications. These can help ease the nerve pain that arises from diabetes-related conditions.
Preventing Diabetic Neuropathy From Becoming Irreversible
Aside from visiting your doctor at least twice a year, you should also check your blood sugar level at home. This way, it’ll be easier for you to determine if your blood glucose is going way higher than it should. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is critical to preventing diabetic neuropathy.
You can check your blood sugar with a glucometer or continuous glucose monitor (CGM). A glucometer reads your blood glucose through a small blood sample. A CGM, on the other hand, is a sensor-based device placed under the skin.
You should run a test before every meal and then another after two hours of eating. Before eating, your target blood glucose level should be between 80 to 130 mg/dL. Two hours after your meal, your blood sugar should be no more than 180mg/dL.
If either test shows levels higher than those targets, call the doctor right away. Again, high blood sugar makes you more prone to diabetic neuropathy. That’s why any increase should prompt you to seek your doctor’s help ASAP.
Aside from glucose monitoring, here are other tips to help you keep your blood sugar down.
Curb the Carb
Carbohydrates are compounds found in almost every food. They’re vital sources of energy, as they transform into simple sugars when eaten. However, it’s also because of this function that carbs are the leading cause of high blood sugar.
With that said, you should stay away from food items that are too rich in carbs. These include most flour-based products, like bread, cakes, pastries, and pasta. Starchy veggies and root crops, like potatoes, peas, and lentils, also have loads of carbs.
Feed on Quality Fiber
As you cut back on carb-loaded food, replace them with items that are higher in fiber. A few examples are whole fruits, 100% stone-ground whole wheat bread, and legumes. If you’re craving for potatoes, go with yam or sweet potatoes instead.
Staying active is one of the top ways to prevent the progression of diabetic neuropathy. For starters, physical activity makes the body use up glucose as a source of energy. This then results in a decrease of sugars in the blood.
Getting more physical can also help reduce the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. One study, for instance, looked at the effects of exercise on this nerve condition. After 10 weeks, the patients saw a significant reduction in their symptoms!
Besides, exercise can do a lot of awesome things for your entire body. It helps keep blood vessels healthy, which then allows for better circulation. Improved blood flow, on the other hand, can help reduce inflammation.
All these can then make you less susceptible to developing diabetic neuropathy.
Don’t Let Diabetes Wreak Havoc to Your Nerves
There you have it, the key facts you need to know about the question—can diabetic neuropathy be reversed? Again, it’s possible to reverse it, so long as the condition isn’t established yet. That’s why you’d want to be on top of your blood sugar and keep it at healthy levels all the time.
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