Diabetes-related neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that affects people with diabetes. It occurs when you have elevated blood sugar for a long period. The most common type of diabetes-related neuropathy affects your legs and feet. There is no cure for diabetes-related neuropathy. You can manage nerve pain with medication, exercise and proper nutrition.
Diabetes-related neuropathy refers to nerve damage caused by high blood sugar due to diabetes.
Your nerves carry electrical signals from your brain to other parts of your body. These signals:
When you have nerve damage, you may experience numbness or weakness. Nerve damage may also affect your internal organs or your ability to move.
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Diabetes-related neuropathy can damage different nerves throughout your body. Types of diabetes-related neuropathy include:
You are also more likely to develop neuropathy if you have diabetes and have:
Some types of diabetes-related neuropathy are more common than others. By some estimates of people with diabetes-related nerve problems:
Diabetes that's not well managed can lead to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Over time, elevated blood sugar can damage your nerves. Too much blood sugar can also lead to damage to your blood vessels, which bring oxygen and nutrients to your nerves.
Your symptoms depend on which type of diabetes-related neuropathy you have. In general, diabetes-related neuropathy symptoms may include:
Diabetes-related neuropathy diagnosis usually involves a foot exam. Your healthcare provider checks your feet for sores, blisters or injuries. Your provider may also touch your feet with special instruments to check for decreased sensations.
If your provider suspects nerve damage, you may have an electromyogram (EMG). This test measures electrical activity or nerve response. During an EMG:
The size and shape of the oscilloscope wave vary based on your nerve response. Looking at this wave gives your provider information about the extent of nerve damage.
Diabetes-related neuropathy treatment involves carefully managing your blood sugar. Managing diabetes is the most important step to prevent nerve damage from getting worse. You can manage your blood sugar through:
You may manage diabetes-related neuropathy symptoms with:
You should also check your feet daily for wounds or injuries. Foot wounds can contribute to foot and skin complications of diabetes.
Maybe. You can keep diabetes-related neuropathy from worsening, and you may be able to reverse nerve damage with very good management of blood glucose, but the process is very slow.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to manage your:
You can decrease your risk of diabetes complications and diabetes-related nerve pain by:
Peripheral neuropathy can challenge your balance. Nerve pain may make it hard to walk or even sit still comfortably. Nerve damage may mean you don’t notice foot injury right away.
For people with diabetes, foot and leg wounds need treatment right away. Diabetes can cause or worsen problems such as peripheral artery disease (PAD). Without treatment, PAD can lead to amputations.
Although reversing nerve damage is difficult, you can still live a high quality of life. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to keep pain at bay.
Lifestyle adjustments can be effective, such as:
People with nerve damage may get depressed or discouraged. Talk with your healthcare provider about your mental health. You may benefit from:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Diabetes-related neuropathy is nerve damage caused by elevated blood sugar. You are more likely to develop diabetes-related neuropathy if you have diabetes that is not well-managed. Smoking, excessive drinking and high blood pressure are also risk factors. If you have diabetes-related neuropathy, your healthcare provider may prescribe pain medications. You also need to manage your blood sugar with proper nutrition and exercise. Many people with nerve damage may feel depressed or discouraged. Talk with your healthcare provider about your mental health. You may consider starting therapy or joining a support group for people with diabetes-related nerve damage.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/29/2021.
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