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Diabetic Neuropathy – Chinese Medicine View: Part II

Diabetic Neuropathy: Chinese Medicine View Part I explains that “poor systemic blood circulation” is one cause of the disease from a Chinese Medicine point of view. The second most common cause of peripheral neuropathy associated with diabetes is due to poor peripheral fluid circulation. The following is a detailed explanation.


Identification of “Neuropathy” Caused by Poor Peripheral Fluid Circulation

It is common for diabetics and people diagnosed with heart and/or kidney disorders to develop edema of the arms, legs or abdomen. From a Chinese Medicine point of view this is largely due to a Kidney imbalance which inhibits the body’s ability to control “water” distribution throughout the body. Fluids then accumulate, typically in the tissues of lower extremities, and exert pressure on the underlying vascular structures (veins and arteries) cutting off blood circulation and causing tingling, burning and numbness. Doctors refer to this condition categorically as “compartment syndrome”. Diuretics (like Lasix) are often prescribed by doctors in an attempt to prevent accumulation of excess fluids.



The skin becomes taut and may feel hard and/or heavy because the limbs, typically the lower legs, are saturated with fluids that the body can’t get rid of. Joints may become very difficult to move due the constraint and added weight caused by fluid build-up. These fluids contain toxins that should have been expelled through urination. Cellulitis can result causing pain, redness, and localized heat. The skin takes on a shiny appearance as it becomes stretched and affected limbs become larger than normal. Trying to fit into the shoes and socks one always wears leaves indentions on the skin. Socks will compress the area they come in contact with and leave indentations in the skin leaving behind the pattern of the sock fabric that lasts for a long time. Here’s a simple self test. If you gently push on a swollen area with the pads of three fingers for about 10 seconds and indentions remain where your fingers were, then you are experiencing a phenomenon referred to as “pitting edema”. “Anasarca” is a term associated with widespread edema and is considered a more severe condition.


Visual Vascular Signs

There may be the appearance of “spider veins” superficially, or… the skin surface may be quite normal in color. Bulging veins (varicose veins) are not typical in this case but, may occur around the knees.



Swelling may occur in the hands, feet, legs or abdomen. There may be no pain at first but, with persistent swelling of the limbs pain will become more evident. Pain may start as itching or sensitivity in one or more areas. Sometimes sensitivity becomes heightened to the point that affected areas “hurt” to be touched, even lightly. Pain gradually progresses from tingling to burning. Eventually, pain ceases due the death of area tissues and nerves. Numbness signals advanced stages.


Tissue Damage

It seems to take longer for tissue damage to result from edema (swelling) than it does from Poor Systemic Blood Circulation. The reason is… blood carries vital nutrients and oxygen throughout the body and  the efficiency of fluid circulation in the body varies according to many factors, internal and external, which may fluctuate, even within a single day’s time.

One example of an external factor would be the sudden introduction of large amounts of sodium into the body through foods. Sodium intake increases water retention… temporarily. Blood circulation in the extremities is inhibited more so during times of acute swelling.

A hormone imbalance (related to the Kidneys) causing fluid retention and weight gain would be considered an internal factor.

Additional complications may accompany swelling with fluid retention. The skin may turn red in small or large patches and become very painful and hot. Doctors refer to this condition as phlebitis; an “inflammation involving one or more veins”.


The “Neuropathy Shuffle”

People diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy eventually develop a particular walk or gait compensating for the loss of feeling in the feet. “The Neuropathy Shuffle” is a zombie-like shuffle as opposed to a normal heel to toe planting of the feet during walking. The tendency of individuals who have lost sensation in the feet is to stumble.

In summary, the underlying “root” cause of any neuropathy must ultimately be addressed. It’s not something that is likely to spontaneously get better. In some cases neuropathy arises out of complications from diabetes. Diabetes is one those ailments that has been easily managed by Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. So, there’s no excuse not to seek treatment for it from a qualified TCM practitioner. Many people suffering from uncontrolled diabetes end up on dialysis and… after undergoing dialysis for a length of time choose to voluntarily end their lives because the process is perpetual and takes so much away from the quality of life. By its very nature Traditional Chinese Medicine defines and addresses root and branch patterns simultaneously and I have been privileged to be a part of many complete recoveries from both diabetes and neuropathy.


I urge anyone interested in obtaining more information to call me at (512) 351-0021 or e-mail me with questions at