Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Is Numbness In My Feet Caused By MS?

Friday, 16 July 2010 12:48 PM

Question: I am a 49-year-old male who never smoked or drank. I am six feet tall and weigh 185 lbs and have lost 32 lbs over the last year and a half. About two years ago, I started to have numbness in my feet and legs to the point that I could not feel them. After much blood work, my doctor has indicated that I am a diabetic. My sugar numbers vary from 120 to 700. I am on a strict diet. I exercise and I take medication to "control" my sugar. I got a second opinion, who told me that he feels, based on my symptoms and family history, I am in the beginning stages of multiple sclerosis. I have both MS and diabetes in my family. Is there any test that would sort all this out? I have gotten to the point that I despise checking my sugar each day. It can vary between 200 and 300 points a day. Any suggestions would be helpful.

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Diabetic neuropathy is most consistent with what you describe. It occurs in a “stocking/glove” distribution that is characteristic for diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, disorders so common with diabetes.

Multiple sclerosis is characterized by random sclerotic plaquing seen on a MRI of the brain, and symptoms that come and go without symmetry or prediction.

Symmetrical neuropathy is not typical of multiple sclerosis. EMG and nerve conduction studies supervised and interpreted by a neurologist will help confirm your neuropathy and its causes.

It’s time to take control of your diabetes. The incidence and severity of neuropathy is correlated with your level of disease control, and prevention of pronounced elevations of blood glucose levels should be one of your highest priorities.
This should help reduce cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels), lipid (blood fats and triglycerides), neurological (brain and nerves), ophthalmological (eye), and renal (kidney) complications of uncontrolled or sub-optimally treated diabetes.

This is no time to be scared of checking your readings. Be proactive and assertive controlling your diabetes, and you will live a longer and more productive life with less potential for disability. No health condition is improved by denial, so start monitoring your sugar levels before meal and bedtime. Review them with your doctor at each visit. Try to bring your hemoglobin A1C readings to less than 6.5 and your LDL cholesterol to a target of 70ng/ml.

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