For chronic pain sufferers with diabetes, one type of nerve damage that can be at the root of your pain is diabetic neuropathy.
High blood sugar (or glucose) has been known to injure nerve fibers throughout your entire body. However, patients suffering from diabetic neuropathy most often incur nerve damage in their legs and feet. The symptoms from diabetic neuropathy can vary greatly. The patients who come to our clinics throughout Southeastern Louisiana complain of:
- Numbness in their extremities
- Issues with their digestive system
- Problems with their urinary tract
- Discomfort in their heart
Some patients complain of mild discomfort, while others experience far greater pain. In some instances, diabetic neuropathy can be fatal.
Causes of diabetic neuropathy
As referenced earlier, prolonged exposure to high blood sugar can damage nerve fibers, which in turn causes diabetic neuropathy. However, there are other factors at play as well, including:
- Inflammation in the nerves, caused by an autoimmune response
- Genetic factors completely unrelated to diabetes
- Smoking or alcohol abuse
Are you at risk for diabetic neuropathy?
Anyone who has diabetes has the potential of developing neuropathy. However, there are a few risk factors that can increase your chances:
- How long you've had diabetes – Your risk increases the longer you've had diabetes, particularly if your blood sugar isn't well-controlled.
- Kidney disease – Diabetes can damage your kidneys. This, in turn, can increase toxins in your body which contributes to nerve damage.
- Weight issues – Being overweight (a body mass index greater than 24) can increase your risk of developing diabetic neuropathy.
- Smoking – Smoking narrows and hardens your arteries, reducing blood flow to your extremities.
- Poor blood sugar control – This, above all, is the greatest risk factor in all complications associated with diabetes, including nerve damage.
How we treat diabetic neuropathy with nerve blocks/ spinal stimulation
Because of the varying degrees of pain, and causes, of diabetic neuropathy, we here at Southern Pain & Neurological of Louisiana offer a variety of treatment options for our patients. Two of the most successful treatments are nerve blocks and spinal stimulation.
Nerve blocks, or injections of medication close to the affected nerves, relieve the pain symptoms of diabetic neuropathy by disrupting pain signals to the brain. Our patients can experience short-term relief through an injection of medication to the area in which they feel pain.
In some cases, we provide longer-lasting pain relief by intentionally damaging the malfunctioning nerve or nerves, with the nerve block.
The reason this treatment method is more effective than oral medication is because the injected medication is delivered immediately, and directly, to the part of the body in pain. Our injections include:
- Steroids – which reduce inflammation and irritation to the affected nerve(s)
- Local anesthetic – to break the cycle of pain and provide relief
- Opioid injection – to provide powerful short-term relief
Spinal cord stimulation can reduce pain by transmitting mild electrical impulses to the spinal cord. This stimulation disrupts the feeling of pain. Rather than feeling pain, patients experience a far more pleasing sensation (referred to as paresthesia).
Spinal cord stimulation can significantly reduce – or even eliminate – the use of pain medications. Another incredibly attractive component of spinal cord stimulation is that it's 100% reversible. If you decide you no longer want to use SCS treatment, the implanted parts can be removed easily.
Because of the involvement of this type of procedure, our team must first determine if you're a good candidate for SCS. Once that is determined, we then initiate a trial period, where we use a temporary stimulator to make sure that you will, in fact, experience relief from your pain.
If the trial period is a success, we can move on to the "permanent" procedure (understanding, again, that this treatment method is 100% reversible).
Once your SCS system is implanted, it's important to note that you, as the patient, have complete control over it. By using a magnetic remote control, you can turn the current on and off, and adjust its intensity.
And since the SCS system is portable, you can go about living your life as you normally would.
Which diabetic neuropathy treatment is right for you?
Each of our patients experiences pain differently. And diabetic neuropathy is so complex in its symptoms, that there is no one singular treatment that is "most effective." That is why we conduct a thorough evaluation of each of our patients before providing our recommendations for treatment.
If you have diabetes and suffer from chronic pain, you may have diabetic neuropathy. Contact us and schedule a consultation with our team today. We'll help diagnose your symptoms and present treatment options so you can reduce your pain, and regain your quality of life.