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Diabetes and Its Effect On Nerve Endings

Having high blood glucose for many years can damage the blood vessels that bring oxygen to some nerves, as well as the nerve coverings. Damaged nerves may stop sending messages, or send messages too slowly or at the wrong times. Numbness, pain, and weakness in the hands, arms, feet, and legs may develop. Problems may also occur in various organs, including the digestive tract, heart, and sex organs. Diabetic neuropathy is the medical term for damage to the nervous system from diabetes. The most common type is peripheral neuropathy, which affects the arms and legs. 

An estimated 50% of those with diabetes have some form of neuropathy, but not all with neuropathy have symptoms. People with diabetes can develop nerve problems at any time, but the longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk. The highest rates of neuropathy are among people who have had the disease for at least 25 years.

Diabetic neuropathy also appears to be more common in people who have had problems controlling their blood glucose levels, in those with high levels of blood fat and blood pressure, in overweight people, and in people over the age of 40.

How to Prevent Nerve Ending Damage
You can help keep your nervous system healthy by keeping your blood glucose as close to normal as possible, getting regular physical activity, not smoking, taking good care of your feet each day (see below), having your health care provider examine your feet at least 4 times a year, and getting your feet tested for nerve damage at least once a year.

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