Diabetic neuropathy and peripheral artery disease are two distinct but related conditions. They are associated because they both affect similar populations and cause some of the same complications, but this has lead to some confusion circling around the disease definitions of diabetic neuropathy vs. peripheral artery disease. Let’s straighten it out.
What is Diabetic Neuropathy? What is Peripheral Artery Disease?
Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage most often caused by diabetes, hence it is also referred to as diabetic peripheral neuropathy; it is a result of prolonged elevated levels of blood sugar.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy usually presents as pain in the form of burning, tingling and general weakness in the limbs, usually in your legs, feet or hands. If not addressed, diabetic neuropathy may develop into complete numbness and atrophy. This is serious!
Due to lack of feeling, you may miss signs of an infection (from minor injuries such as blisters or cuts) which could lead to a major infection and possible amputation. Also, nerve damage from diabetes can cause problems with internal organs such as the digestive tract, heart and sexual organs. It is estimated that up to 70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe neuropathy.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a narrowing of the arteries most commonly found in the lower regions—legs, calves, thighs, hips or buttocks. PAD pain symptoms include aching, cramping, numbness and weakness that occur when walking, climbing stairs or exercising. The discomfort goes away when you rest (intermittent claudication). Eventually, the pain may be ever-present, which can limit activities and your quality of life.
PAD is a chronic disease in which plaque builds up due to atherosclerosis, making it difficult for blood to circulate through the arteries. PAD progression happens when blood flow in the arteries becomes completely compromised or blocked altogether. Serious blood clots can form when plaque breaks off and enters the bloodstream. Major red flag: There is cause for concern upon hearing the term “blood clot” in reference to your vascular health.
The Diabetes Connection
Diabetic neuropathy and peripheral artery diseases share a common denominator: Diabetes. In diabetes, the nerve gets “sick” from either increased blood sugar or too little blood sugar reaching the nerves. This results in the nerve not getting enough oxygen. A common cause of diabetic peripheral neuropathy is early vascular disease, a disorder of blood vessels that reduces or compromises blood flow. Since blood vessels include arteries (as well as capillaries and veins), consider that PAD can be a cause of diabetic neuropathy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), type 2 diabetes is responsible for about 90-95% of diabetes cases. So, we will focus our attention here. Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, but more young adults are also developing it. The main cause is high blood sugar due to insulin resistance in the body. High blood sugar is bad for your body and can cause other serious health problems such as heart and kidney diseases, and vision loss. According to Lam Vascular & Associates, a Texas specialist in all things vascular, other diabetes causes or risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Family history
- Overweight; obesity
- Lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle
Because there is no defining cure, diabetes treatment and management are crucial. You and your specialist at Lam Vascular & Associates will craft a personalized plan which will include some or all of the following:
- Monitoring and controlling blood sugar
- Screening tests for blood pressure and cholesterol
- Developing a healthy eating and activity plan
- Taking suggested supplements, vitamins and foods rich in both, such as ALA (alpha-lipoic-acid), vitamins B1, B5, B6, B12 and vitamin D
- Stopping smoking
- Limiting alcohol use
- Developing a light physical therapy plan
- Walking short distances (5-10 minutes) daily
Consult with Lam Vascular & Associates!
At Lam Vascular & Associates, our goal with every patient is to alleviate pain. And make you comfortable again in your walking shoes. If you are experiencing leg pain or ANY of the more severe signs or symptoms discussed here, act now and get the treatment you need.
Schedule an initial appointment with Lam Vascular & Associates, conveniently located in Dallas and Rockwall, Texas. We know how important your health is to you!
The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.