I thought that it would be a good idea to share my experience with Insulin Neuritis as there really is not a lot of information out there with respect to this. When I began to suffer with this rare condition I searched endlessly for stories of people experiencing the same thing I was, mostly for comfort and reassurance. I really was surprised at the lack of info out there. So here is my story.
I was diagnosed Type 1 diabetic on September 7, 2011. On diagnosis my sugars were hovering around the 38 mark and my A1C was 16% (off the charts according to my Endo). Looking back I think that I went undiagnosed for at least 18 months, perhaps longer. Going for so long undiagnosed resulted in the issues I have had with my eyes and teeth (that is another story altogether). Unfortunately I also have suffered with this rare condition Insulin Neuritis.
About two weeks after I was diagnosed I began to notice what I can only describe as "buzzing" in my feet. It was not painful but very annoying. By the time I attended my diabetic education classes in October, 2011 the "buzzing" had progressed to some burning and pins and needles. I spoke with the nurse about it after class and she said that this can be quite normal and that it should go away within a couple of weeks. I left feeling assured that it was temporary, I was not too concerned. Over the next four weeks things got worse, fast! The burning was soon accompanied by stabbing pains through both feet and up my legs. It felt like someone was shocking me. I could be sitting and would repeatedly be plagued with these pains. By the end of October, 2011 I was in a living hell, literally. I was experiencing the most unbelievable pain 24 hours a day. Nothing would ease it. By then I had been to my doctor half a dozen times and she had started me on Neurontin (Gabapentin) which was used for nerve pain as well as a cocktail of T3's and Percocet. She had me taking 2 Percocet every 4 hours and it did nothing to ease the pain. I was getting on average 4 hours of broken sleep a night and was extremely exhausted and very emotional. I tried for a while to do some work from home but by mid-November had given in and went on short term disability. It became difficult to walk and the pain got even worse if travelling in a car, standing for more than a few seconds or wearing socks and shoes. In fact it was painful for anything to touch my feet, whether it be my sheets or even a breeze of air. My doctor had referred me to a neurologist right away and I got in to see him at the end of November, 2012. By this time I was a total wreck. I was not sleeping and was in agony all of the time. The pain was the worst in my feet however had travelled up my legs, into my arms and hands and was even in my ribs and breasts. I had noticed some time ago that the hair on my feet had stopped growing and now that my sugars were regulated the hair began to grow back. I swear that I felt every single one of those things grow. My diabetic nurse told me about an ointment for nerve pain called Neuralgia and I went out and bought it right away. It was $35 for a small bottle but I was willing to try anything.
The neurologist really was amazing. He was very thorough and very reassuring. He confirmed that I had no permanent nerve damage however it was likely I would suffer for the rest of my life with flare-ups of neuropathy. He advised that the current state I was in was due to having my sugars dropped from a very high level to a normal level in a very short period of time. He explained that since I had gone undiagnosed for what was a very long time, my blood had become thick with sugar and my nerves had gone into "hibernation". He said that once my blood sugars had been normalized, the nerves in my body had awoken and were in the process of regenerating themselves. He said that the process of regeneration is a long process and extremely painful. If the nerves had suffered damage they would die off quickly and I would be numb, not in pain. He assured me that things would gradually get better over time and that hopefully within 12 months I should not experience many symptoms at all. He felt that the Neurontin I was on would help and he upped my dosage significantly. He also gave me a prescription for Amitriptyline which he said would help with the burning pain and also a prescription for sleeping pills. I left his office feeling somewhat more optimistic.
My boyfriend Ryan and I had registered the previous May to go to Vegas with me running the full marathon and him the half. I had to cancel the marathon and was so upset. I felt like my life was crumbling around me. The sleeping pills helped somewhat and I began to get around 6 hours of sleep at night. The medication did start to kick in and I was getting spells of relief. I found that if I kept my feet ice cold it helped ease the pain. I did not really leave my house so I kept frozen packs to use on my feet. At night I would get up six to eight times a night to soak them in cold water or apply the ice. I spent my days on the couch with my feet up. I can honestly say that it was the lowest point in my life. I was still reeling from being diagnosed with diabetes, had two eye surgeries to remove cataracts and was now in the most pain I could imagine. Ryan and I decided that although I could not run in Vegas we would still go, I needed to get out of the house. The plane ride was difficult as my feet hurt a lot, but I am glad that we went. I wore sandals everywhere and spent a lot of time with my feet up. For the first time in a long time I started to laugh again! I did have some very frustrating moments, particularly at night, and cried many, many a tear alone in the bathroom.
Slowly things began improving and I no longer had to apply the ointment every day. By January, 2012 I was able to go for some walks and had a couple of pain free hours a day. I had to continue icing my feet regularly and could not wear closed toe shoes. I returned to work part-time on February 6, 2012 and had my trusty ice packs at work to get me through. Work was very understanding and accommodating and they even got me a fancy foot stool for under my desks. As time went on I noticed that I did not have to ice my feet as much and was sleeping better and better. At the end of February, 2012 I returned to full-time work and started to try and run again. I cried the first time I did a 5km run with relatively no pain. I began to see a Naturopathic Doctor and they put me on a regimen of different vitamins to help my nerves heal. I also had 6 acupuncture treatments and can honestly say that they helped.