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The Connection Between Diabetes and Sciatica

Diabetes is a devastating diagnosis, especially when it comes out of the blue later in life. Whether you’ve had it your whole life or it strikes later, complications are bound to happen. One of those complications is neuropathy, which can mimic other conditions such as sciatica.

Unearthing the underlying cause of your nerve pain is the key to successful treatment. At Peninsula Orthopedic Associates, our professional team of surgeons is committed to helping you figure out whether your pain is caused by your spine or something else. 

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition that affects the sciatic nerve, which is the biggest nerve in your body. This nerve originates in your lower back and extends into your buttocks and down both legs. If this nerve becomes inflamed, you can have pain or weakness on one side of your body. 

Common causes of sciatica include:

Sciatica can be chronic or may flare up with certain movements or activities. It may cause you excruciating pain, enough to interfere with your day-to-day activities. Other symptoms that may point to sciatica include:

These symptoms usually occur in one leg or the other and can vary from one part of the leg to your foot. Your pain may also be severe, or more of an annoying ache that makes even the slightest movements uncomfortable. 

If you’re diabetic and dealing with any of the symptoms above, you may be dealing with sciatic nerve pain, or you may be suffering from side effects of diabetes, such as neuropathy.

Diabetes and sciatica: Are they linked?

Diabetes is a disease that develops when your body doesn’t properly regulate the amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood. When your blood sugar remains high for an extended period, it can cause damage to the nerve fibers throughout your body. 

The nerves that are usually affected first are the small nerves in your hands and feet.

So how are diabetes and sciatica connected? The answer is slightly more complicated than you might think.

First off, both of these conditions affect nerves in your lower extremities. They also can both cause pain, numbness, or tingling. Despite the similarities, the conditions are quite distinct.

Diabetes causes diabetic neuropathy, which leads to nerve damage in the hands, legs, and feet. This causes similar symptoms in the legs to sciatica, but sciatic pain is only from damage or inflammation in the sciatic nerve. 

Neuropathy from diabetes also occurs over time, where sciatic pain can come on suddenly. It can also be progressive, but the root is from damage to your spine, leading to impingement or inflammation of the nerve.

In short, despite the similarities between the two conditions, the only way to know for sure what is causing your symptoms is to have a physical exam by one of our staff.

Getting your symptoms under control

Figuring out the real cause of your nerve pain is crucial in determining your best treatment options. How our office treats your symptoms greatly relies on your symptoms and underlying health conditions, such as diabetes.

If we determine that your symptoms are originating in your sciatic nerve, we may suggest one of several treatment options, such as:

If your pain doesn’t subside over several months, even with conservative treatments, our doctors may suggest surgical intervention. This type of surgery may involve removing part of the disc that’s causing compression of the nerve. 

Our doctors may also conclude that your symptoms are originating from high blood sugar. In this case, getting your blood sugar under control is one of the best things you can do to stop the neuropathy from progressing. 

Although there’s no cure for diabetic neuropathy, it can be managed with healthy blood sugar levels and medications.

Find out why you’re suffering from nerve pain, and get the treatment you need. Call one of our four offices in Daly City, San Francisco or Atherton, California, to schedule an appointment, or book online today. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.

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