Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week: Preventing Diabetes Complications

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MAC Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week

As we observe Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight on one of the most prevalent yet often overlooked complications of diabetes: diabetic neuropathy. While preventing diabetes itself is vital, understanding and actively preventing its complications, like diabetic neuropathy, is equally essential for a healthier and more fulfilling life.

What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy occurs when prolonged exposure to high blood sugar levels damages nerves, particularly in the legs and feet, but it can affect other areas of the body as well. The consequences can be debilitating, impacting one’s ability to walk, sense pain, or even notice injuries. Sadly, many individuals with diabetes underestimate the risks or fail to recognise the symptoms until significant damage has already occurred.

It’s estimated that around half of people living with diabetes, both type one and type two, will develop diabetic neuropathy1.

Reducing the Risk of Diabetic Neuropathy

  1. Maintain Stable Blood Sugar Levels – Consistently high blood sugar levels are the primary cause behind diabetic neuropathy. Monitoring your blood sugar regularly, adhering to a balanced diet, and staying physically active can help keep your glucose levels in check. Additionally, medications prescribed by your healthcare provider may be necessary to manage blood sugar effectively.
  2. Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle – Regular, low-impact exercise goes a long way in preventing diabetic neuropathy and other complications of diabetes. In a study conducted with diabetic neuropathy patients, it was found that just eight weeks of regular exercise improved their symptoms2. Incorporating regular exercise into your routine paired with a balanced diet, and focusing on activities that improve circulation can support overall health and reduce the risk of nerve damage.
  3. Quit Smoking – Smoking not only increases the risk of developing diabetes but also exacerbates its complications, including neuropathy. Diabetic smokers are 42% more likely to develop diabetic neuropathy than non-smokers3. Quitting smoking is one of the most significant steps you can take to protect your nerves and overall health. Seek support from healthcare professionals or smoking cessation programs if needed.
  4. Manage Other Health Conditions – Conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol can worsen diabetic neuropathy. Work with your healthcare team to manage these conditions through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular monitoring.
  5. Participating in Regular Foot Care – Proper foot care is essential for individuals with diabetes, as nerve damage can lead to decreased sensation and increased vulnerability to injuries. Wear the correct shoes, and inspect your feet daily for any signs of redness, swelling, or injury, seeking prompt medical attention for any abnormalities; it’s estimated that around 75% of people living with diabetic neuropathy may be wearing footwear that is not suitable for them4.

Potential consequences of Diabetic Neuropathy

While prevention is the cornerstone of managing diabetic neuropathy, early detection and treatment are equally crucial. Ignoring the symptoms or leaving diabetic neuropathy untreated can have serious consequences, including:

  1. Chronic Pain – Untreated neuropathy often leads to persistent pain, ranging from mild tingling or burning sensations to debilitating pain that interferes with daily activities and sleep, drastically impacting a person’s quality of life.
  2. Increased Risk of Infection – Nerve damage can impair the body’s ability to detect injuries or infections, leading to unnoticed wounds that are slow to heal and at risk of becoming infected.
  3. Foot Complications – Diabetic neuropathy is a leading cause of foot ulcers and, in severe cases, may necessitate amputation if left untreated. It’s estimated that diabetes is the cause for around 180 amputations every week in the UK5.

Living with Diabetic Neuropathy?

MAC Clinical Research is currently running a clinical trial for Diabetic Neuropathy to test a potential new treatment for the condition.

To be eligible for the clinical trial you must:

  • Be aged 18 to 75.
  • Have a BMI of 18 to 40kg/m2.
  • Have a diagnosis of type I or type II diabetes.
  • Have neuropathy in both feet or both legs that has been present for six months or more and is due to diabetes.

Other eligibility criteria will apply.

If eligible, you can receive up to £1050 plus reasonable travel expenses. For more information and to register your interest, visit MAC’s Diabetic Neuropathy Research Page.

1 Current Diabetes Reports – Epidemiology of Peripheral Neuropathy and Lower Extremity Disease in Diabetes

2 Medicina – The Effect of Structured Exercise Compared with Education on Neuropathic Signs and Symptoms in People at Risk of Neuropathic Diabetic Foot Ulcers: A Randomized Clinical Trial

3 Journal of General Internal Medicine – The Effect of Cigarette Smoking on Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

4 Diabetes UK – If the boot fits: testing guidelines for good fitting footwear

5 Diabetes UK – Research on preventing amputations

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