House Call: Diabetic-related Nerve Damage and Taking Care of your Feet
About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage, also known as neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathies are a family of nerve disorders caused by diabetes.
People with diabetes can, over time, develop nerve damage throughout the body. People with diabetes can develop nerve problems at any time, but risk rises with age and longer duration of diabetes. The highest rates of neuropathy are among people who have had diabetes for at least 25 years.
Symptoms of the condition depend on the type of neuropathy and which nerves are affected. Some people with nerve damage have no symptoms at all. For others, the first symptom is often numbness, tingling, or pain in the feet. Symptoms are often minor at first, and because most nerve damage occurs over several years, mild cases may go unnoticed for a long time. Other, less common symptoms include degeneration of the muscles of the feet or hands, indigestion, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, dizziness or faintness due to a drop in blood pressure after standing or sitting up, and problems with urination.
With damaged nerves, you might not feel pain, heat or cold in your legs and feet. A sore or cut on your foot may get worse because you do not know it is there. Therefore, experts recommend that people with diabetes have a comprehensive foot exam each year to check for any neuropathies. Diabetic patients should ask their doctor to examine their feet at each checkup. Fortunately, the Cone Health Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center is dedicated to treating patients throughout the community with diabetic neuropathies and educating them on proper foot care.
Dr. Claire Sanger is a plastic surgeon and the medical director of Cone Health Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center. Dr. Sanger earned her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) in 1999 from West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed her residencies in general surgery and plastic surgery at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Dr. Sanger completed a craniofacial fellowship at Salgrenska University in Sweden, and an autologous ear reconstruction fellowship at George Bizet in France. She also serves as an assistant professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.