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Medical Background: Diabetes

Diabetes feets”Someone, somewhere, loses a leg because of diabetes every  30 s of  every  day”.
The Lancet, Vol 366 November 12, 2005

The term “diabetes” actually describes several related but different diseases. Common to all of them is the fact that the blood sugar levels are too high compared to what is healthy. While diabetes is commonly divided into two groups: Type I and Type II, several different sub-types have been discovered in recent years. But these all share the same underlying problem: the insulin produced in the body is insufficient for the cells to absorb blood sugar, which is the fuel our cells need for energy. Blood sugar is transported to the cells through all blood vessels, both small and large. Insulin then acts as a catalyst, allowing the cells to absorb the energy (blood sugar) from the blood. If this mechanism no longer works, the blood sugar levels become too high. As a consequence of this, the very fine micro capillaries supplying the nerves of the arm and leg may be affected, leading to peripheral neuropathy. The exact reasons as to why the so-called neuropathy emerges in cases of diabetes are unclear and might differ from Type I to Type II respectively.

A direct consequence of peripheral neuropathy is that one loses one’s sense of touch, which is part of the sensory nervous system. This is a slow process; initially, patients are unaware of their sensory loss.