Type 2 diabetes symptoms: Loss of reflexes in this body part could be a sign of condition
Type 2 diabetes occurs when people are resistant to insulin – either the pancreas doesn’t make enough of the hormone or cells don’t respond to it. Diabetes UK says complications can begin five to six years before people find out they have type 2 diabetes.
So it’s very important to know what to look out for.
Persistent high levels of blood sugar (glucose) levels in the bloodstream can lead to nerve damage.
When this occurs, the medical name for the type 2 diabetes complication is diabetic neuropathy.
Nerves are essential for our body to be able to communicate.
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To demonstrate, nerves carry messages between the brain and every part of our bodies – enabling us to see, hear, feel and move.
The bundle of fibres (nerves) also send signals to the heart, to help control heart rate and the lungs.
High blood sugar weakens the walls of small blood vessels (capillaries) that supply the nerves with oxygen and nutrients.
When nerves are starved of vital components, they become damaged.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) reported that around half of people with diabetes have neuropathy.
Signs of diabetic neuropathy usually take several years to appear, with the loss of reflexes in the ankle being one alarming symptom.
There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, radiculoplexus and mononeuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy and affects the feet and legs first, followed by the hands and arms.
Symptoms of the complication tend to be worse at night, which include:
- Numbness or reduced ability to feel pain or temperature changes
- Tingling or burning sensation
- Sharp pains or cramps
- Increased sensitivity to touch — for some people, even the weight of a bedsheet can be painful
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of reflexes, especially in the ankle
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Serious foot problems, such as ulcers, infections, and bone and joint pain
Autonomic neuropathy denotes the nerves within the autonomic nervous system – that controls your heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs and eyes – have been affected.
This leads to a whole array of consequences, which can be:
- A lack of awareness that blood sugar levels are low
- Bladder problems
- Constipation, uncontrolled diarrhoea or both
- Slow stomach emptying (gastroparesis), causing nausea, vomiting, bloating and loss of appetite
- Difficulty swallowing
- Increased or decreased sweating
- Problems controlling body temperature
- Changes in the way your eyes adjust from light to dark
- Increased heart rate at rest
- Sharp drops in blood pressure after sitting or standing that may cause you to faint or feel lightheaded
- Erectile dysfunction
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased sexual response
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Radiculoplexus neuropathy (also known as diabetic amyotrophy)
Radiculoplexus neuropathy affects the nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks or legs.
Usually, symptoms occur on one side of the body but, sometimes, it can spread to the other side. Symptoms include:
- Severe pain in a hip and thigh or buttock that occurs in a day or more
- Eventual weak and shrinking thigh muscles
- Difficulty rising from a sitting position
- Abdominal swelling, if the abdomen is affected
- Weight loss
Mononeuropathy (in other words, focal neuropathy)
Mononeuropathy is specific nerve damage in the face, torso or leg.
Commonly, this type of diabetic neuropathy can strike suddenly and can cause severe pain.
The painful sensation can be felt in the shin or foot, lower back or pelvis, front of thigh, chest or abdomen.
This sort of diabetic neuropathy can also lead to the following:
- Difficulty focusing
- Double vision
- Aching behind one eye
- Paralysis on one side of your face (Bell’s palsy)
The best way to avoid this diabetic complication in the first place is to visit your GP to check blood sugar levels.
The sooner diabetes is under control, the better the chances of living with diabetes without further health complications, such as diabetic neuropathy.
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