Peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy, also called distal symmetric neuropathy or sensorimotor neuropathy, affects the nerves in your toes, feet, legs, hands, and arms. Peripheral neuropathy is the most common form of diabetic neuropathy. Your feet, legs and toes are often affected first, followed by your fingers, hands and arms.
Many people with diabetes feel no symptoms of neuropathy themselves yet still have signs that a doctor can identify in an examination.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include:
- Numbness or insensitivity to pain or changes in temperature
- A tingling, burning, or prickling sensation (like the feeling of “pins and needles” that happens when circulation to your feet is pinched from sitting cross legged)
- Sharp pains or cramps
- Pain when walking
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, even light touch – for some people, even the weight of a sheet can be agonizing
- Loss of balance and coordination
Symptoms may be more pronounced at night.
In addition, peripheral neuropathy may also cause muscle weakness and loss of reflexes, especially at the ankle which could lead to changes in the way a person walks and foot deformities.
Blisters and sores may occur on numb areas of the foot because pressure from a poor fitting shoe or injury goes unnoticed. If foot injuries are not treated promptly, the infection may spread to the bone, and the foot may then have to be amputated.
DDF’s Executive Director Andrew P. Mandell – Mr. Diabetes® suffers from severe diabetic neuropathy which causes severe pain and sensitivity in his legs and feet. He also suffers a loss of balance requiring him to walk with a walking stick. In spite of this condition he walked a 10,000+ mile perimeter of the United States. During his walk he had to be vigilant regarding potential injuries. At the end of each day would often pull his shoes off at the end of the day to discover blood on his socks from stepping on a nail, a blister that had formed or his foot and rubbed it raw from a small pebble in his shoe. Good daily foot care is essential for people with peripheral neuropathy.