Diabetic neuropathy affects all peripheral nerves including pain fibres, motor neurons and the auto-nomic nervous system. It therefore can affect all organs and systems, as all are inner-vated. There are several distinct syndromes based upon the organ systems and members affected, but these are by no means exclusive. A patient can have sensori-motor and auto-nomic neuropathy or any other combination. Symptoms vary depending on the nerve(s) affected.
Symptoms may include:
- Numbness and tingling of extremities
- Dysesthesia (abnormal sensation to a body part)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control)
- Facial, mouth and eyelid drooping
- Vision changes
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Speech impairment
- Fasciculation (muscle contractions)
- Anorgasmia (unable to ejaculate)
- Burning sensation
- Electric pain
My own experience of this incurable illness, so far, has been mainly concentrated to my lower limbs, however, I also experience discomfort in my arms, hands and fingers, along with my neck and lower back.
Imagine constantly having pins and needles. Now imagine periodically loosing feeling in your toes, feet and legs. You are constantly cold in these areas too, despite your upper body being uncomfortably hot at times. Now imagine that every few minutes someone sends painful electric shocks through these areas.
There is no respite from this.
Imagine too that walking any distance greater than the end of a 2 car length driveway, increases the aforementioned pain 10 fold.
I totally regret that I never did more….. I used to cycle to work; I used to go to the gym three or four times each week. I used to be able to take my children to the park, out on bike rides and so on.
All of this has been taken away from me.
I now have to use a stick to aid my walking, but I cannot walk any distance. For example, I may walk around a supermarket at my pace with my wife and children, but I will always have to sit down after because of the pain. About 50% of the time I will have to abort before the shopping trip is completed and sit in the café area because I cannot continue.
I take a minimum of 12 pills per day, however, if I am having a really bad day that can be as much as 30.
My mobility has been greatly affected by the Neuropathy, and although I am taking medication with the aim to reduce the pain or make my life more liveable, I am some way off from that at this time. To explain; my GP, is very proactive and since my absence from work has changed my medications a number of times to try to find a beneficial concoction. This has meant a complete change of drug or a change of dosage. These are not quick changes, the body has to be weaned off one drug prior to it being introduced to another, usually a minimum period of a week for these changes to take effect, and another week to 10 days before the impact can be assessed.
It is not a process that can be rushed. During this time there are of course side effects, such as increased drowsiness, poor appetite, increased appetite, diarrhoea, insomnia, loss of concentration and so on. Things that are compounded by the diabetes, the neuropathy, and the depression – yes I have a mental illness too.
On top of this, due in part to the diabetes, I suffer daily from fatigue – some days I do not have enough energy to even get out of my bed. This should not be confused with tiredness. To help you understand I would like to give you an example of a recent incident. After washing up, vacuuming the lounge and putting the rubbish out, a wave of tiredness hit me (it’s like your body is made out of metal and a powerful magnet is pulling you in to the ground) so I had to sit down. This was at 1030 in the morning. I was woken by my Wife at 1145 who then assisted me in getting upstairs to our bedroom. I went to bed as I simply could not function. I awoke the next day at 0800. I got up feeling groggy. I assisted with the preparation for school and then after eating a light breakfast fell asleep on the sofa again. This was repeated over the next few days, until my body had recovered. I have no control over this. Tests have shown that my white blood cell count is high and this is also currently under investigation.
I mention this not for sympathy, but to help you to understand that I have undergone a monumental change over a very short period of time. And that I am not on my own, there are other sufferers of unseen illnesses also struggling to come to terms with a newly limited life.
If only employers would do more. If only tests for Diabetes were mandatory every two years. I went undiagnosed for TEN YEARS. I just thought the long hours I was keeping at work etc were the reason I was tired.
So get yourself checked out. Please.