Medical Alerts Help Seniors with Diabetic Neuropathy

Medical Alerts Help Seniors with Diabetic Neuropathy

Seniors with diabetes have many health concerns to worry about. That’s because high glucose levels can eventually affect every part of your body, from your head to your toes.

One of the more common problems with diabetes is neuropathy, which is nerve damage in your body. About half of all people with diabetes deal with some form of neuropathy.1


Diabetic neuropathy happens when high blood glucose levels damage your nerves. It also happens when high blood sugar damages the smaller blood vessels in your body, such as those in the eyes, heart, kidneys, and feet. As those blood vessels find it harder to transport oxygen and nutrients through the bloodstream, your risk of complications – like neuropathy – goes up.


You are more likely to develop nerve damage if you have had diabetes for a long time. But other factors can also contribute, such as being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, or managing chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or advanced kidney disease.


There are different types of neuropathy, all of which make using a senior medical alert system a fantastic idea for staying safe and secure.


Peripheral Neuropathy


Peripheral neuropathy often affects the feet and legs, and later might move to the arms and hands. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is the most common type of neuropathy.2 It can lead to a loss of sensation in the feet or legs, shooting pains as the nerves misfire, numbness, and inability to feel temperature changes or pressure. You might experience muscle weakness in the legs or feet and even an extreme sensitivity to touch.


The most dangerous part of this neuropathy might be the numbness or lack of sensation in the feet, as this means you might suffer some sort of wound on the foot but not notice it right away. For instance, you might rub blisters on your heels after long hours of walking around a park with the grandkids, but not realize you’ve done so until signs of infection catch your eye days later. By then, the wounds could be severe enough to warrant a trip to the doctor instead of some at-home first aid.


It makes perfect sense that a medical alert necklace,pendant, or wristband should be a priority for those who suffer from peripheral neuropathy, because the risk of falls is increased dramatically when you can’t feel your feet or suffer from muscle weakness. Your risk of falls also goes up if you feel pain, which is unfortunately common among those with this type of neuropathy.  The American Diabetes Association names peripheral neuropathy as one of the top risk factors for falls.3


And if you fall down, you want to get assistance immediately. Lying on the floor for even a few hours can lead to even more serious complications, including hypothermia, dehydration, muscle breakdown, and so much more. Reaching out immediately with the use of a senior life-saving alert system can help ensure a much better medical outcome in the aftermath of a fall.


Autonomic Neuropathy


This type of neuropathy affects the nerves that control your organs. This can show up in a wide variety of ways, including problems with blood pressure, bladder control, heart rate, and even your eyes. These issues can lead to all sorts of other problems, including heart attack or stroke – and having a medical alert at your fingertips can be your saving grace in a medical emergency.


But another problem that can stem from autonomic neuropathy is a condition called hypoglycemia unawareness.


For most people, when our blood sugar drops to a dangerous level, we feel it. This happens to anyone, even those who don’t have diabetes. In fact, we feel it well before it gets to dangerous levels.


Some might become irritable (or “hangry”) and feel the need to eat something – right now! Others might feel faint, weak, or nauseous. And still others might get shaky and unsteady on their feet. There could even be some tunnel vision or other problems with seeing. All of this is a strong indication that we need to get something to eat, right away.


Those who have diabetes often become familiar with this feeling and have snacks, glucose tablets, or other assistance on hand to deal with the hypoglycemia. They feel the symptoms, treat the problem, and they’re just fine a few minutes later.


But for those with hypoglycemia unawareness, none of those symptoms occur. Someone might not be aware their blood sugar is too low until they start to show very significant signs, such as slurred speech or intense confusion. And at that point it could be too late to tell someone else what is happening. It could also be too late to have the presence of mind to reach for those glucose tablets.


A continuous glucose monitor, also known as a CGM, is a medical device that can spot low blood sugar well before it becomes a problem, which is why so many with hypoglycemia unawareness use one.


But an emergency button alarm can also be a life-saving tool. Low blood sugar can come on very quickly – sometimes too quickly for your CGM to keep up. If you begin to feel confused or strange, for any reason, press the button right away. Even if you can’t communicate with the trained professionals on the other end of the line, rest assured that they will get you the help you need.


Focal Neuropathy


This is a type of neuropathy that affects only single nerves. This is also called “entrapment” of the nerves. It happens when a nerve passes through a narrow passage between tissue and bone, such as in the wrist or the ankle, and becomes “trapped” and compressed in that tiny space.


For instance, damage to the nerves in your hand or wrist can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, which is by far the most common form of focal neuropathy. In fact, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases points out that about 25% of those with diabetes have some nerve compression at their wrist.4


But this type can also affect other parts of the body, including the nerves that lead to the head, the legs, or the torso. When this happens, you might feel weakness or numbness in certain areas of the body, such as the lower leg or the toes. You could have problems with double vision, issues with focusing your eyes, or paralysis on one side of your face – this is known as Bell’s palsy.


It’s important to remember that while some entrapment issues with the nerves can cause problems that gradually increase over time, nerve damage that doesn’t include entrapment can happen very suddenly. That’s where the wonders of medical alert technology come in very handy.


Imagine stumbling for no apparent reason, going down hard, and then realizing that it’s because you can’t feel part of your foot. The speed with which you went from upright to flat on the floor was shocking. But because you had a personal emergency response system at your fingertips, you could summon help fast and didn’t have to worry about the dire consequences of lying on the floor for too long.


Proximal Neuropathy


This is the rarest form of neuropathy, but quite a disabling one. This nerve damage affects the larger nerves of your body that work through your hip, thigh, or buttock. It usually happens only on one side of the body. The numbness or pain of this type of neuropathy can be debilitating, making it difficult if not impossible to walk.


Those with this sort of neuropathy should also consider senior alert systems to keep them safe. Remember, this is another type of neuropathy that can come on very quickly, so having help right at your fingertips can provide peace of mind. If you do fall down or otherwise suffer the severe pain and numbness of proximal neuropathy, you won’t have to wait for someone to come to your aid – you can call for that help directly, immediately, just when you need it.


Steps to Take If You Have Diabetic Neuropathy


Any sort of neuropathy can lead to serious complications. That’s one reason why it’s so important to keep your blood sugar well under control. The better you control your blood sugar, the easier it might be to manage the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.


Some of the pain and numbness might go away on its own as you keep your blood sugar levels where they should be, but other problems – such as carpal tunnel syndrome – might continue to be a problem once they show up. In that case, your doctor can recommend medications that might work for you, physical therapy treatments, or even surgery that can open up the nerve pathways and relieve some of the pressure (especially for those who have entrapment of the nerves).


You should also pay very close attention to your body. For instance, if you have peripheral neuropathy, you might not feel the pain of a wound on your foot. And if you can’t feel the pain of it, you might not notice it right away, which allows it to get worse. Those with diabetes can also have poor circulation, especially in the feet, which makes it harder for wounds to heal.


All that creates a perfect storm of problems that could lead to serious complications with your feet (and falling), up to and including amputation in the most severe cases.


Therefore, you should look at your feet every day. Look for blisters, redness, swelling, and anything else that looks unusual. If you notice something, pay very close attention to it and get in touch with the doctor right away if it gets worse.


You should also be very careful to control your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and any other chronic conditions. These problems might be caused by neuropathy, but even if they aren’t, studies have shown that chronic conditions in addition to diabetes can make blood glucose control much more difficult. Keep senior whole health in mind when you talk to your doctor about what you can do to treat and prevent diabetic neuropathy.