From Phoenix, Arizona, USA:
What does neuropathy feel like to someone who suffers from it? The reason for my question is twofold. First, I have a an elderly cat with diabetes (please don't stop reading yet!) that I manage using insulin injections (1 year now) and home blood glucose testing. He had neuropathy in the hind legs, manifesting as extremely weak legs which improved tremendously (evidenced by him jumping up high again after a year of no jumping) as he's become better regulated and since I began supplementing him with methylcoblamin, a neuroactive form of B12. Of course, he can't tell me how he feels so I wonder if I should be doing certain types of exams for it or other preventative/curative procedures for him. Now I just watch how he moves and uses his body for any changes in that.
Secondly, my 60 year old sister was diagnosed about 4 years ago with type 2. She resisted this reality for a couple of years and spent much time and money on alternative products (herbs, foods, etc.) trying to "naturally" cure it. With no success she finally began injections, but I believe I test my cat (2+/day) more than she tests herself. Also during that time, she had a lot of other physical problems, notably in her arms -- severe pain and inability to lift them, which she attributed to 27 years in a factory. Her doctors said it was tendonitis and other problems. While plausible, now that I have some diabetes education, I wonder if this is really neuropathy and how I can help motivate her to better regulation in hopes her arms will recover some as my cat did. I would also be interested in any info/opinions you have on the B12 supplement and other remedies for neuropathy.
It is hard to know if your cat had diabetic neuropathy or a different disease, called pernicious anemia. B12 would "fix" pernicious anemia, but not likely the neuropathy. High sugars for some time cause all kinds of nerve damage, but it is also hard to know why one person (or cat) would get one not the other -- but this happens all the time. A good vet would likely know the answer to some or your more specific cat questions. Keen observation makes you a good cat doctor, however.
If you are testing your cat more than your sister tests, then you will have more information upon which to make decisions about medication like insulin. Testing is a key to understanding one's own diabetes, how food, activity and medication (pills or insulin or some combination work). The more one tests, the better the data to look for patterns and make adjustments. This is true for type 1 and also for type 2 diabetes. The weakness and muscle/nerve problems you describe in your sister could be pernicious anemia or could be hyperglycemic neuropathy of many types. A good doctor who is knowledgeable about diabetes would likely be able to make the distinctions and then come to some therapeutic advice as to what might be done for correction purposes.
Controlling blood glucose levels is always a key part of making such improvements and usually better than all other types of medications. So, get your sister to test -- and also to talk to her diabetes team about these symptoms so that she might get some specific advice.
Additional comments from Dr. Rebecca Price:A significant number of diabetic cats seem to experience "neuropathy" in their hind legs when their diabetes is not well-controlled. We've never had anyone write into the Feline Diabetes site and say their cat seems to be in pain from this. The owners seem to be distressed of course but the cats seem to adjust quite well. The vast majority of cats seem to recover from this muscle weakness once their blood sugars are controlled for awhile. Some cats will have repeated problems with the hind leg weakness but never seem to be in pain. Other than trying to keep the sugar under control there doesn't seem to be much prevention for this condition. There aren't any specific tests except to do as you are doing and watch your cat closely for any change in habits or abilities.
Original posting 21 Sep 2000
Posted to Complications
Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:12
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