How Doctors Test Nerve Damage in Diabetics

People with Diabetes are at a higher risk of incurring complications or other illnesses such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, blindness, kidney failure, and nervous system disorders. In this article, let’s discuss about Diabetic Neuropathy and the tests performed to properly diagnose nerve disorders in diabetics.

Diabetic Neuropathy – Facts and Figures

According to statistics gathered by the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 60% to 70% of people with diabetes have a mild or severe form of nervous system damage. This is due to experiencing long term hyperglycemic condition or excessively high blood sugar levels. As a result, nerve fibers in the body are slowly damaged or impaired.

In a related survey, it has been found that 30% of diabetics who are aged 40 and above either have impaired sensation in their feet or has completely lost feeling in their lower limbs.

Complications of diabetic neuropathy or nervous system disorder include the loss of feeling in their hands and feet, slower digestion of food, carpal tunnel syndrome, impotence, erectile dysfunction, fasciculation or muscle contractions, urinary incontinence, poor vision, speech impairment and others.

Nervous System Disorders and Diabetes

There are different causes of nervous system disorders and diabetes is just one. When the nerve disease is caused by diabetes, it is called diabetic neuropathy.  People with diabetes, who have consistently high blood sugar levels for 10 years or longer are at a greater risk of nerve-related diseases.

In some people, the symptoms of a nerve disorder may not be obvious until their condition has already progressed. For this reason, a testing is recommended to see if there have been any nerve damages caused by diabetes. The nerve conduction velocity or NCV of a person with a nerve disorder is greatly slowed down. Thus, in order to get an accurate diagnosis, the NCV or the speed of the nerve impulses must be tested.

Diabetic Neuropathy Testing

Doctor’s use more than one ways to test diabetic neuropathy. These tests are based on the sensations that a person feels- touch, temperature, light and vibration.  The following are some of tests conducted to diagnose nerve diseases.

1.   Vibration Testing. This test is done using a tuning fork and is used specifically for larger nerves fibers in the body.

2.    Temperature Testing. This particular test is used for the smaller nerve fibers in the body. People who have completely damaged their smallest nerve fibers may totally lose their ability to feel even extreme sensations.

For instance, they may not be able to tell the difference between hot and normal temperatures. Thus, they could be more at risk of injuring themselves from a boiling water or excessively hot object. Hence, statistics show that about 50%-75% of non-traumatic amputations are caused by diabetic neuropathy.

3.    Light Testing. This type of test is also used to examine large nerve fibers. Large nerves are responsible in picking up sensations that touch our skin. People who have damaged their large nerve fibers may have difficulty picking up even the simplest sensations.

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