When you are living with diabetes, one concern you may be facing is peripheral neuropathy. This condition is a diabetic complication that’s associated with high blood sugar levels. Why? When your sugar levels rise, it can damage your nerve endings; if that occurs, you may experience the tingling, numbness, and/or pain in your feet and toes that are associated with diabetic neuropathy.
But neuropathy isn’t just uncomfortable—it can also cause major problems for diabetic feet. That’s because, when you lack feeling in your feet or toes, you may not notice when you get a small cut or blister. So, if your shoes keep rubbing at that blister, or you don’t properly clean out that cut, what once was a minor wound can quickly turn into a sore or ulceration, an open wound that is very difficult to heal and close up.
And if your podiatrist can’t heal that ulcer, the infection can spread into your blood or even attack the bones of your feet. If you experience that kind of spread, the health of your entire foot may be threatened…which is why neuropathy puts many patients on the path to foot amputations.
So, that’s the scary news. But here’s some comforting information: you can treat neuropathy and protect your feet before ulcers come into play. We just want to be sure that the treatment options you select are ones with sound medical evidence confirming their efficacy.
This is How your Podiatrist Treats Diabetic Neuropathy
Unfortunately, once peripheral neuropathy sets in, we can’t cure this condition. But we can manage your symptoms and progression to provide comfort and protect your from limb loss.
As part of our treatment plan at Prairie Path Foot & Ankle clinic, we begin with what you put on your feet. It’s very important for diabetics to wear specially designed shoes, and orthotics, so that your feet are protected from dangerous areas of pressure. Over time, this pressure could wear at your skin, possibly without you even realizing it, and it could allow sores to develop. That’s why your shoes are so important when you have neuropathy.
But that’s not the only preventive measure you need to take. If you have neuropathy, you also need to carefully manage your blood sugar levels. As we mentioned earlier, high blood sugar is what causes the damage to your nerve endings, but the problems don’t stop there. Your blood sugar can also narrow or harden the arteries in your feet and legs, compromising the circulation to that area. And poor circulation can cause painful cramps in your feet or legs, while also decreasing your body’s ability to heal any cuts or sores that do develop on your feet.
While working with your diabetic care team (which usually includes your primary care doctor, endocrinologist, diabetic educator, dietician, and nurses) to maintain your sugar levels, our podiatrists will also show you how to conduct a home exam on your feet and lower extremities. And we want you to do that check every day, following up with us in-office for regular, more comprehensive exams.
Finally, your team will address your pain levels. You may need oral medications or supplements suvh as NerveReverse that contain benfotiamine, an antioxidant, and thiamine (vitamin B1) analogue. Research suggests that these supplements can decrease your peripheral neuropathy symptoms.
MLS Laser for Neuropathy
In our practice at Prairie Path Foot and Ankle Clinic, we find that the most effective way to treat neuropathy is with our MLS Laser. The laser is pain free, has virtually no side effects, and can be used in conjunction with the other oral medications and supplements that your doctor may recommend. In addition, it increases circulation to the area, decreases edema, and also has an analgesic effect. It turns light energy into biomechanical energy, enhancing your own body's healing potential.
Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz about using CBD to manage your neuropathy symptoms. CBD is certainly a hot product these days, and people are claiming it can work all sorts of miracles, but we need to take a closer look at what it is.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is derived from the marijuana plant, and is usually delivered for use in the form of oils, ointments, or even infused into certain edible products. CBD is being touted as a sleep aid, ideal pain reliever and so much more. Of course, research is being conducted into other areas where CBD may be effective. And some studies have suggested that participants did sleep better when using CBD, but, for all we know, that result could be attributed to the placebo effect (you sleep better because you’ve been told the product in question could help you sleep better.)
Can CBD Help Patients with Peripheral Neuropathy?
As I write this article, there is plenty of research under way regarding CBD as a way to both prevent diabetes and to manage diabetic complications like neuropathy. And, anecdotally, many patients will tell you that CBD helps them calm down, or helps alleviate the tingling or pain they experience as a result of neuropathy. It has no psychogenic effects and very few side effects. If CBD is legal in your area and it makes you feel better, go ahead and give it a try, but should never be a substitue for following the medical advice of your primary care doctor or your podiatrist.
Our office carries Hempnesic, which is a topical gel containing camphor, menthol, and capsaicin, all topical pain relievers. It also contains ingredients that are derived from hemp, and is free of THC. Our patients find if they apply it to the affected area 4 times a day, they do feel relief.
In terms of diabetic neuropathy, there are different approaches; you as a patient should work with your PCP and your podiatrist to help control the symptoms.