Prolonged uncontrolled Diabetes can weaken the spinal cord


Dr. Alok Joshi

Senior Consultant – Diabetes & Metabolic Diseases,

Max Super Specialty Hospital, Shalimar Bagh

A very important structure between the body and the brain is the Spinal cord. It provides a vital link from the brain to the body and body to the brain. It is around 40 – 50- cm long and 1 cm in dia. Two consecutive rows of nerves emerge from either side. This gives spine a link to the Central nervous system (CNS). All the signals are transferred to the brain through the CNS and vice – versa. What will happen if this transport department is distorted? Diabetes can definitely be an intruder. Diabetes is a slow poison that slowly spoils all the organs of the body and when it is targeting the CNS – it doesn’t sound good.

Diabetes can harm the nerves when the blood sugar is high for too long. This damage is known as neuropathy and can be painful at times. Consulting a doctor may let you know the various ways in which neuropathy can happen. So it becomes very much necessary to maintain the blood sugar level. Diabetic neuropathy can be classified into four categories: Peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal.

Peripheral Neuropathy

The damage caused to the peripheral nerves that usually affect the feet and legs, and can rarely affect the arms, abdomen and back too. If a patient feels numbness in any of the body parts especially feet and legs, accompanied by tingling sensation, he should know to first try reducing his sugar level as the high blood sugar may be damaging his nerves. Sometimes it can be symptomised by pain and burning sensation that keeps us in discomfort. Better to consult your doctor for early diagnosis and medication. You can keep a track of your feet and legs daily for swelling, and can use lotions if dry. Toenails reveal a lot, and may need to visit the podiatrist once. Keeping the feet covered always can be done to ensure no injuries to the feet.

Autonomic neuropathy

If your diabetes is affecting your digestive system you may know it easily, if you are feeling full after having a small meal, having nausea or vomiting feeling, diarrhea or constipation. And when the blood sugar reaches the blood vessels for destruction, the symptoms may be visible with increased heart beat and low blood pressure, you may have difficulties in getting up quickly as the world may fade out; also dizziness can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Doctor may advice to wear special stockings and ask you not to get up quickly. One may feel very distressed when they know that diabetes is starting to affect their sex organs. Men can make out when they see that their erection doesn’t last long or having dry and reduced ejaculations. And when a woman doesn’t have orgasms or less vaginal lubrications can indicate the affect. Consulting a doctor for appropriate medications and better on time help may be received. Frequent urination at night and incontinence shows that the urinary bladder is affected. Sometimes bladder may not be completely emptied. Doctor can prescribe medicines, or surgery to insert catheter in the bladder.

Proximal Neuropathy

This type can cause pain in thighs, buttock, or hips and is usually on one side. Legs are also weakened in this process. Most people with this condition may need physical therapies with medications to override the pain and weakness.

Focal Neuropathy

This type can have effects that are very sudden and can affect specific nerves, most often in head, torso or legs. This causes muscle weakness or pain. Heavy pain in the eye, double vision, or even one sided face paralysis (Bell’s Palsy) with severe pain in the lower back or leg can show symptoms of focal neuropathy. As this is unpredictable and painful, it is necessary to tell the doctor all the symptoms. Not to worry, as with medications it may last for weeks or months but doesn’t cause long term damage.


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