Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stumbling Through Diabetic Neuropathy

Did you know that not taking care of your blood sugar levels can literally cause you to stumble in the dark? That's what a group of scientists at Merritt College, the University of California at San Francisco, and San Francisco State University discovered in their study of type 2 diabetics with peripheral neuropathy.

The California research team found that type 2 diabetics who had neuropathy had muscles that tend to "freeze" while they walk. The ankles don't bend backwards and forwards properly, so the hips do not swing through their full range of motion. Diabetics tend to take "baby steps," and when they accelerate to faster motion simply because they want to get somewhere faster, they tend to fall down.

The nerves that activate the muscles used to walk simply don't transmit signals as quickly when there is diabetic neuropathy. This means that muscles don't get the message when the diabetic walks into a slick patch (such as ice or grease) or an obstacle (such as the edge of a carpet). The feet and legs don't change their pattern of motion and falls result.

Treating neuropathy prevents falls and broken bones. There is nothing better for treating diabetic neuropathy than keeping blood sugar levels within a normal range, but many of the treatments we discuss in this series will also help.

Selected Reference:

Boyd BS, Wanek L, Gray AT, Topp KS. Mechanosensitivity during lower extremity neurodynamic testing is diminished in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and peripheral neuropathy: a cross sectional study. BMC Neurol. 2010 Aug 28;10:75.

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