Peripheral Neuropathy Clinic
Over time, high blood glucose levels can cause nerve damage (neuropathy). Damage due to diabetes is usually in the peripheral nervous system—the part of the nerve network that carries sensory information (feelings such as pain and hot/cold) from parts of the body to the brain. The peripheral nervous system also carries messages back from the brain to muscles in the arms and legs.
The most common complaints due to neuropathy are the feeling of “pins and needles,” numbness, stiffness or a burning pain. Peripheral neuropathy is most often in the legs or feet, although it can affect hands. Sometimes there are no symptoms or they can be so mild they go unnoticed for many years.
Pain can be a problem with neuropathy. But a greater problem is if the neuropathy leaves you unable to feel pain. If you don’t feel pain, injuries go unnoticed and untreated. This can result in ulcers (open sores) or wounds that get infected, which can be very serious. This is the main reason why amputation is sometimes necessary. But such amputations are preventable if minor problems are caught and treated in time.
The goal of treatment in our clinic is to prevent the progression of neuropathy and relieve any symptoms you are experiencing.
We may confirm the diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in several ways. During a physical exam, we may check blood pressure and heart rate, muscle strength, reflexes and sensitivities to temperature or touch. We may also do other tests to help determine the type and extent of nerve damage:
- Nerve conduction studies to check the transmission of electrical current through nerves in the arms and legs.
- Electromyography (EMG) to see how well muscles respond to electrical signals transmitted by nearby nerves. This test is often done at the same time as nerve conduction studies.
- Quantitative sensory testing (QST), which uses the response to stimuli—such as pressure, vibration, and temperature—to check for neuropathy.
A likely first step will be to bring your blood glucose levels down to the normal range to prevent further nerve damage. This may also help relieve symptoms. There are medications and other treatment methods, depending on which nerves are affected.
You will also be taught proper foot care and may be referred to our Foot Clinic.
The team is under the medical direction of Christopher H. Gibbons, M.D.
Page last updated: December 15, 2018