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6 Diabetic Neuropathy Complications To Watch Out For

6 Diabetic Neuropathy Complications To Watch Out For

Diabetic neuropathy is a complication of diabetes that can negatively affect the patient’s well-being. This is because the complications of diabetic neuropathy may extend to various systems. Here’s what you need to know about the complications, as well as the steps to prevent them from occurring.

Diabetic Neuropathy, an Overview

Before we discuss the complications of diabetic neuropathy, let’s first have a quick recap of what the condition is.

Generally, diabetic neuropathy is when the nerves sustain damage due to prolonged or uncontrolled high blood sugar. It can occur in any nerve, so the symptoms vary depending on the nerve involved.

Reports say this complication can affect as many as 50% of patients with diabetes.

Complications of Diabetic Neuropathy

As mentioned earlier, the complications of diabetic neuropathy depend on what nerves are affected. The patient may develop:

Urinary incontinence and UTI

Some of the complications of diabetic neuropathy are incontinence and UTIs,

When the nerves of the bladder are affected, the patient may not be able to fully empty the bladder. This might trigger urinary tract infections.

Likewise, damaged bladder nerves may also decrease your ability to feel the need to urinate, causing incontinence.

Digestive issues

If diabetic neuropathy occurs in the digestive tract, the patient may develop digestive symptoms, like diarrhea or constipation or both.

One of the complications of diabetic neuropathy is gastroparesis. In this condition, the stomach doesn’t empty the normal way. This means food moves slowly or not at all. Symptoms of this condition include nausea and vomiting, feeling full even without meals, and abdominal discomfort.

Sexual dysfunction

Patients with diabetic neuropathy may also experience sexual dysfunction. For instance, women may have problems with lubrication and arousal, while men may have difficulty achieving an erection.

Drops in blood pressure

Another complication of diabetic neuropathy is dropped blood pressure levels. This might happen especially when you change position (from sitting to standing).

Problems in blood pressure regulation occur because the nerves that control circulation are damaged.

Loss of a foot or leg

One of the most commonly affected areas of nerve damage is the foot.

Due to neuropathy, the patient may not realize that they have already sustained minor injuries or cuts to their skin. Left untreated, these minor injuries may affect the deeper tissues and bones, causing infection and tissue death that warrants amputation.

Being unaware of hypoglycemia

Another dangerous complication of diabetic neuropathy is being unaware of low blood sugar levels.

You see, when there’s damage to the autonomic nervous system, the patient may have difficulty detecting some of the warning signs of hypoglycemia, which include:

  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Fast heart rate

Of course, this list of diabetic neuropathy complications is not exhaustive. Case in point: it may also cause chronic pain.

How To Prevent Or Delay Diabetic Neuropathy

If you want to prevent or delay diabetic neuropathy, you need to be proactive in making lifestyle modifications that help:

  • Control your blood pressure. Generally, the level should be below 140/90 or whatever target your doctor sets.
  • Control your cholesterol levels.
  • Lose weight (excess weight increases diabetic neuropathy risk)
  • Reach your blood sugar targets. The longer you have diabetes, and the more prolonged or frequent you experience hyperglycemia, the higher your risk is.

To help you with these, it’s best to work closely with your doctor and a registered nutritionist-dietitian. You need to limit your alcohol intake, avoid or quit smoking, perform regular physical activity, have healthy meals, and take your medicines as prescribed.

Key Takeaways

Diabetic neuropathy pertains to nerve damage due to diabetes. Depending on the damaged nerve, it may lead to various complications, such as digestive problems, sexual dysfunction, BP drops, and even amputation. To prevent or delay neuropathy, it’s crucial that you work closely with your doctor.

Learn more about Diabetes Complications here.


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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 2 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD