Nerve problems, termed as ‘neuropathy’ affect a considerable number of diabetics. The main reason attributed to this is poor blood sugar control. Diabetic autonomic neuropathy is a condition in which the nerves responsible for the functioning of internal organs like the cardiovascular system, the bladder muscles, the genital organs and the digestive tract fail to function normally due to diabetes.
Most of these nerve functions are not consciously controlled by a person. They function automatically. So, any damage to these nerves can lead to involuntary functioning of the internal organs.
List of internal organs affected by diabetic autonomic neuropathy
The list of internal organs that can be affected by this condition is as follows:
- Digestive system
- Heart and blood vessels
- Sex organs
- Urinary tract
- Sweat glands
How does diabetic autonomic neuropathy affect these organs?
Any damage to the nerves present in the internal organs can lead to involuntary response and complications. Read on to know more.
Whenever there is a drop in the blood glucose levels, the body’s natural response causes sweating, shakiness and palpitations. But diabetic patients having autonomic neuropathy do not notice any of these symptoms as their bodies do not generate any response and this makes it extremely difficult for them to recognize hypoglycemia.
If this condition is not addressed quickly, the patient may faint or lose consciousness. Imagine losing consciousness while walking or driving. It could be potentially dangerous for yourself and others too.
Any damage to the nerves present in the digestive system can cause constipation. It may also lead to a condition called ‘gastroparesis’, wherein the stomach empties too slowly. In diabetic patients, it can lead to vomiting, persistent nausea, loss of appetite and bloating.
Damage to the nerves present in the esophagus can make the process of swallowing food extremely difficult for the patient. Bowel movement may also be affected leading to bouts of constipation followed by uncontrolled diarrhea. In the long run, this leads to weight loss.
Heart and Blood Vessels
The cardiovascular system consisting of the heart and blood vessels controls the blood circulation in our body. Diabetic autonomic neuropathy damages the nerves present in the cardiovascular system, thereby affecting the blood pressure and heart rate. There may be a sudden drop in the blood pressure or the heart rate may be elevated instead of rising and falling according to the physical activity and body functions.
Damage to the nerves in the sex organs leads to a decrease in the sexual response in both men ands women. However, the sexual drive may not be affected. Men may have trouble getting a proper erection required for normal sexual intercourse. Also, men may have trouble ejaculating after reaching sexual climax. Women may experience difficulty with lubrication, arousal or orgasm.
In diabetics with autonomic neuropathy, completely emptying the bladder may not be possible due to nerve damage. This gives a chance for bacteria to grow and thrive in the bladder and kidneys leading to urinary tract infections. A person may also not be able to sense when his/her bladder is full. Sometimes, this may result in uncontrolled release of urine.
If the nerves that control sweating do not function properly, it may lead to profuse sweating. This also makes it difficult for the body to regulate its temperature.
Diabetic autonomic neuropathy can affect the pupils present in the eyes. This makes the eyes less responsive to light. Driving in the night can be a real challenge.