A nervy affair

Peipheral neuropathy as a result of diabetes can lead to loss of limbs

FOR the past three months, Peter Davies, a 55-year-old diabetic, has been experiencing loss of feeling and numbness in his hands and feet. This feeling can occur any time of the day, even when he’s sitting down watching television.

Lim Ai Lee, a pastry chef in her 40’s, frequently feels as if her feet are on fire. She doesn’t understand what is happening or why she is experiencing this awful sensation, but it is affecting her job.

Another example of someone suffering from nerve damage is Johan Rais. He has been having this annoying tingling sensation in his hands and feet for the past one year.

Diabetes is the most common cause of this type of nerve problem. Do not ignore the signs of nerve damage as a result of long-term high blood sugar levels.

The best way to prevent diabetes from getting out of hand is to take a blood sugar test regularly, and guided by the results, make some lifestyle and dietary changes.

Diabetes is a silent disease, with more than 50% of diabetics being unaware that they have the disease; it is one of the leading causes of death in Malaysia.

Many people first become aware that they have high blood sugar issues only when they develop nerve damage or one of its life-threatening complications, such as leg amputation, blindness, kidney disease, heart disease or stroke.

Being overweight or obese can hasten the onset of diabetes complications.

According to the 2006 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) conducted by the Health Ministry, one in seven Malaysians is diabetic. However, this may just be the tip of the iceberg. Many leading experts in the Malaysian medical and nutrition community now believe that diabetes afflicts up to a staggering 22% of the country’s population – meaning one in five adults in Malaysia is diabetic.

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are elevated. Most of the food eaten is turned into glucose (sugar) for the body to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the body’s cells. When you have diabetes, the body either does not make enough insulin, or cannot use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in the blood.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst and hunger.
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss, despite eating more than usual
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing sores or frequent infections

Peripheral nerves are responsible for sensations you feel, such as touch, pain and temperature. There are literally millions of these nerve endings in your fingers, hands, toes and feet, and they keep you out of danger and away from the things that are hot, cold, sharp, etc.

In peripheral neuropathy, you may have tingling, pain, or numbness in your feet and hands. Nerve damage starts even before a person is diagnosed with diabetes. Even somebody with pre-diabetes may have neuropathy.

However, nerve damage can also be “silent”, meaning you have no symptoms at all.

Amputation is a potentially serious complication of neuropathy. Diabetes is one the leading causes of amputation of the lower limbs throughout the world – up to 50% of all amputations! The risk of a leg amputation is 27.7 times greater for a person with diabetes.

Bringing blood sugar levels to within normal range is the first step to prevent further nerve damage. Regular blood sugar monitoring, meal planning, physical activity, oral medication or insulin will help control blood glucose levels.

It may take some time, but generally, the symptoms will improve when there is good glucose control. A good blood sugar control can also help prevent or delay the onset of further problems.

Japanese scientists have now discovered that damaged nerves can be regenerated with a simple supplement known as mecobalamin or methylcobalamin, the active form of Vitamin B12.

Mecobalamin is the neurologically-active form of Vitamin B12. Mecobalamin protects against neurological (nerve) disease and ageing by a unique mechanism that differs from current therapies. Some of the disorders that may be preventable or treatable with this natural vitamin therapy include peripheral neuropathies. Take one capsule of 500mcg three times daily to help promote healthy nerves and protect against the degeneration process of the nervous system.

Tips on how to achieve healthier blood sugar levels:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Be as physically active as possible
  • Always go for the wholegrain option
  • Avoid having sugary snacks
  • Cut down on sugary beverages