Diabetic neuropathy is a specific type of nerve damage caused by diabetes. It can occur in many different areas of the body, but typically starts in the feet. Some people experience only mild symptoms, while others may experience severe, disabling pain. In certain cases, diabetic neuropathy can lead to a leg amputation or death if left untreated.
Diabetic neuropathy affects the tips of the longest nerves first, meaning the toes and feet are the first part of the body to be affected. Diabetic neuropathy in the legs and feet is called peripheral neuropathy. Possible symptoms include:
- Sharp, jabbing pain that may worsen at night
- Tingling or burning sensation
- Pain when walking, also called intermittent claudication
- Extreme sensitivity—for some people, the weight of a single sheet can be excruciating
- Difficulty walking due to muscle weakness
- Numbness or reduced sensitivity to temperature changes, especially in the feet and toes
- Foot ulcers, infections and deformities (hammertoes, collapse of the midfoot)
- Bone and joint pain
If the neuropathy results in an infection and is not caught in time, the damaged limb could require an amputation. It is estimated that roughly half of such amputations can be avoided.
The Temple Limb Salvage Center specializes in treating patients who are at risk for an amputation. Using preventive medicine, medications, novel therapies and limb-sparing surgical techniques, they aim to preserve their patients' health while providing viable alternatives to amputation.