What is it?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that may start in childhood or later in life. One of the complications of diabetes is peripheral neuropathy, a loss of sensation in the feet that may be accompanied by pain, numbness and dangerous ulcers and wounds.
What are the symptoms?
Peripheral neuropathy can manifest in many ways including muscle tension in the foot and toes, which can feel like cramping. The diabetic may also feel shooting pain, numbness or tingling. A more dangerous sign is the presence of blisters, ulcers or wounds that are undetected due to the loss of sensation. When severe, the diabetic will have unstable gait because they can’t feel the ground under their feet.
How is it caused?
Although there are two types of Diabetes, both forms damage the small blood vessels (capillaries) in the body including those in the hands and feet. Damage to the foot capillaries results in a gradual change in nerve function, called peripheral neuropathy, often undetectable to the diabetic until the damage is severe.
How is it treated?
If the diabetic has no open wounds it is essential that they wear a custom orthotic to off-load high pressure areas – this can make this difference between avoiding an amputation or not. Specialized materials are used for diabetic orthotics and an annual gait analysis is essential to maintain lifelong foot health.
A further step in preventing peripheral neuropathy, or preventing it from becoming worse, is addressing a thiamine deficiency. One out of every three people with peripheral neuropathy has a thiamine (B1) deficiency and responds to benfotiamine, a B1 derivative, found in NeuRemedy®, a Natural Health Product approved by Health Canada.