A common complication of diabetes is peripheral neuropathy or nerve damage. Peripheral neuropathy affects the feet and legs but can also affect the arms and hands and cause shooting pains, muscle weakness, and difficulty walking. While there is no cure for peripheral neuropathy, there are certain options available that can help with managing the condition. If left untreated, the condition can worsen and lead to nerve compression that may require nerve decompression surgery.
Signs of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Nerve Compression
Burning in the feet is a common sign of peripheral neuropathy, but the condition can cause other signs and symptoms, such as:
- Pain that is shooting and sharp
- Tingling and numbness
- Muscle weakness
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Reduced ability to feel temperature changes
- Loss of coordination or balance
If peripheral neuropathy causes a nerve to become compressed or trapped, numbness in the area where the nerve is constricted can occur. Nerve compression can come and go and range in severity. Some people may only experience mild symptoms, while others may have symptoms that are severe and debilitating. Specific activities that pull or press on the nerve may worsen the symptoms of nerve compression.
Compressed nerves can be especially dangerous for those with diabetes since they are already at risk for foot wounds or ulcers. If the nerve compression leads to a reduced sensation, a wound may occur and go undetected. Since diabetes can make it difficult for a wound to heal, the wound can become infected and may even lead to amputation.
Peripheral neuropathy nerve compression can make it difficult to do daily activities or tasks. You may not be able to keep your balance or grasp items. Nerve compression can cause pain as well as the following:
- Inability to move the affected limb
- Limb weakness in the feet or hands
- Muscle loss
- Tingling or pain in the area where the nerve is compressed
Ways to Treat Peripheral Neuropathy Nerve Compression
If you are diabetic and have signs of peripheral neuropathy nerve compression, consult with a peripheral nerve surgeon as soon as possible. The earlier the condition is treated, the more likely it is that progression will be slowed so it will not lead to further complications such as permanent nerve damage or muscle loss.
To diagnose peripheral neuropathy nerve compression, a physical exam will be done to evaluate your symptoms and check your reflexes, sensitivity to touch, and muscle strength. In addition, other diagnostic tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other potential causes. These may include X-ray, MRI, or nerve conduction studies. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment options will be discussed.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy nerve compression can often be treated by conservative methods such as:
- Medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Injections. Steroid injections can help with pain and inflammation.
- Exercises. Certain physical therapy exercises can help improve strength and help with movement so that irritation on the compressed nerve does not occur.
- Orthotics or braces. To provide extra support, orthotics can be worn inside the shoes, or braces can be worn on the arms or legs.
If the nerves do not heal on their own after trying conservative treatments, nerve decompression surgery may be an option to consider. Surgery can be done to release the compressed or constricted nerves to provide relief from pain and other symptoms. Another type of surgery that may be recommended is a nerve transfer. Dr. Williams will evaluate your specific condition and determine what type of decompression surgery will work best for your individual needs.
Contact a Baltimore Diabetic Neuropathy Specialist
If you have diabetic peripheral neuropathy and are experiencing pain or numbness due to nerve compression, contact our office for an evaluation. Dr. Williams can accurately diagnose your condition and recommend treatment options based on your individual needs. To schedule an appointment in our Baltimore office, contact us at (410) 709-3868 or fill out our contact form online.