There’s nothing worse than constant leg and foot pain. If you or your loved one has this, you know.
If you’re afraid to get it, then let’s experience what it feels like…
You’re walking down the beach barefoot.
All of a sudden, you step on a lit cigarette someone carelessly dropped.
The burning sensation sends flashes of tingling and pain right up your leg and into your spine.
While your foot is OK, you can’t get that tingling pain out of your body for a few minutes.
Imagine living like this.
Perhaps you want to feel neuropathy before you get it.
Put a sharp object like a pebble or stone in your shoe.
Walk around on it all day. Make sure it hits a nerve and sends tingling, painful sensations up your spine.
How’s that feel?
These examples can’t come close to what diabetics with peripheral neuropathy suffer from.
Leg and Foot Pain
The most common type of nerve damage you may experience with diabetes is peripheral neuropathy. It’s estimated that roughly half of you with diabetes will experience peripheral neuropathy at some point in your life. Ugh, half.
So if you want to know what you’re in for if you don’t get those sugars under control, then try the “stone-in-shoe” method.
Peripheral neuropathy affects the nerves outside of your brain and spinal cord. Peripheral neuropathy typically occurs in your hands, legs, and feet.
What you should ask your physician or provider to do
If you have type 2 diabetes, you should have an annual assessment for peripheral neuropathy conducted by your healthcare provider.
Even if you don’t experience any signs or symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, make sure your healthcare provider does the annual clinical checks they should do. If not, ask for them to be done.
Nearly half of the damage to peripheral nerves can occur without symptoms.
This is why you must ask your doctor or provider to check you annually. (See my Free Guide, Fastrack Your A1c Goal, to get the RIGHT doctor. Grrr. I hate it when you don’t get the care you deserve!)
If they are simply doing a “looky-look” then they are not doing a good exam. See this video, (almost a million views)
and this is a good neuro exam so you know what they are supposed to be doing.
At the 6:25 minute mark, you find out why this patient has neuropathy.
Signs and Symptoms of Neuropathy
The most common early symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include burning and tingling, which occur due to damage to small nerve fibers. This is PAINFUL.
Damage to your larger fibers can cause numbness and loss of sensation.
If you have decreased feeling in your feet, then you are at risk for injuries to your feet.
How many times have I seen patients come in with their toes falling off and they didn’t know it? Too many to count!
How to Avoid Neuropathy
So, if you are a diabetic or prediabetic, you have to keep sugar out of your blood and put it in the tissues. Why? See my article, “Understanding Diabetes on the 4th-grade level.”
Let’s prevent this horrible pain from sneaking into your life.
Daily and annual actions can prevent or slow peripheral neuropathy.
Neuropathy not only causes pain, but it leads to depression, weight gain, and decreased social life. Geez.
Treatment for leg and foot pain
Pain management is the answer but it’s not ideal. (These medications had too many interactions with other meds and side effects…weight gain? Really!)
Taking medications or getting your blood flowing again is often difficult.
Two FDA-approved prescription medications for pain are: Lyrica (pregabalin) and Cymbalta (duloxetine). Another medication, Neurontin (gabapentin), is similar to Lyrica and may be less expensive.
However, gabapentin is not currently FDA-approved for treating diabetes-related neuropathy. Because of the overuse of gabapentin and its side effects, some states are making it a controlled substance. This means you can only get a 30-day supply or less and you must return to your doctor to get more.
According to the ADA, the use of any opioid for pain management carries the risk of addiction and should be avoided.
There are also prescription medications including lidocaine and capsaicin that can be spread on the skin (topically) or used as a patch to relieve pain.
And if all else fails, then when you lose sensation in your legs and feet, you may lose circulation, too. Now we are faced with amputation.
I know. I know. Not a pretty picture so let’s paint a better one…get the right doctor.