The following is an open letter from State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-East Cobb), a registered nurse who serves as Chairman of the Georgia House Health and Human Services Committee.
It is estimated that over 23 million Americans are currently affected by diabetes, and that number is expected to grow in coming years.
As many as half of those Americans will have some form of nerve damage due to their diabetes. Many with nerve damage experience sharp, burning, or shooting pain. Additionally, many patients experience numbness in their limbs and severe nerve damage, which can lead to amputation.
The most important factor in preventing nerve damage is maintaining a normal blood sugar. To do this, a patient must work with their doctor or health care provider to design a healthy diet and nutrition plan, test their blood sugar levels, and take actions when problems arise.
There is a plethora of medicines available for pain, but many products that are commonly used for headaches, muscle aches, or joint pain have not been clinically proven to work to calm the stabbing, tingling, burning pain that may be associated with nerve damage.
There are a variety of therapies to treat new or existing nerve damage. Unfortunately, there are many instances where insurance companies will not cover the costs of these therapies, even when their prescribed by a doctor.
It is important for patients suffering with Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy that they have unobstructed access to the therapy their doctor prescribes to prevent further damage caused by their condition. Even if symptoms seem mild initially, the nerve damage may get worse over time and lead to more serious problems. People who suffer from DPN should talk to their doctor at the first sign of any symptoms.
As a nurse, I see a clear need for individuals to have that unobstructed access to treatment, which is why I lead the effort to pass House Resolution 851 this year under the Gold Dome, designated June 20, 2013 as Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Alert Day in Georgia. Working with the Georgia chapter of the American Diabetes Association, our goal is to spread awareness among patients with DPN, and the public at large, on this critical public health issue.
Together, through greater awareness and medical care, we can begin to reduce the number of patients suffering from diabetes the resulting nerve damage, and better maintain access to the full range of medical care available today.