Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes. People who have diabetes often have high blood sugar levels. Over time, this can damage nerves throughout your body.
There are several types of diabetic neuropathy.
This is damage to peripheral nerves. These nerves sense pain, touch, hot, and cold. They also affect movement and muscle strength. The nerves in the feet and lower legs are most often affected. This type of nerve damage can lead to serious foot problems. The damage usually gets worse slowly, over months or years.
This is damage to autonomic nerves. These nerves control things like your heartbeat, blood pressure, sweating, digestion, urination, and sexual function.
These are types of nerve damage to one or more nerves in the body. One type affects just one nerve. This is called mononeuropathy. It often affects a nerve in the wrist or foot. It can also affect a nerve that controls the eye muscles. Another type affects many nerves. This is called polyradiculoneuropathy. It often affects nerves in the back and chest. These types of nerve damage happen all of a sudden. And they can get better with time.
Over time, high blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage nerves throughout your body. The higher your blood sugar levels, the more likely you are to have nerve damage. Also, the older you get and the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to have nerve damage.
Symptoms depend on which nerves are injured. You may not be able to feel pain, especially in your feet. This can lead to serious infections if sores and other problems aren't treated. Other symptoms may include problems with digestion or urination, and blood vessel problems that can lead to poor circulation or low blood pressure.
Your doctor will check how well you can feel light touch and temperature and will test your strength and reflexes. Tests such as an electromyogram and nerve conduction studies may be done to confirm the diagnosis. Your doctor will want to know about any symptoms such as pain, weakness, or urinary or digestive problems.
Treatment involves keeping blood sugar levels in your target range. This will not cure nerve damage. But it can help keep the damage from getting worse, and the pain might get better.
Other treatments depend on your symptoms. They may include:
When you have diabetes, you could have a sore or other foot problem without noticing it. So check your feet every day. An untreated problem on your foot can lead to a serious infection or even amputation.
Work together with your doctor to find the treatment that helps you the most.
Keeping your blood sugar levels in your target range recommended by your doctor may help prevent diabetic neuropathy. The best way to do this is by checking your blood sugar and adjusting your treatment. It's also important to get to and stay at a healthy weight by exercising and eating healthy foods.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Over time, high blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage nerves throughout your body. The higher your blood sugar levels, the more likely you are to have nerve damage.
Also, the older you get and the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to have nerve damage. People with diabetes who drink too much alcohol are also more likely to have nerve damage.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can occur slowly over time. The most common ones are:
Autonomic neuropathy may affect certain processes in the body. This includes digestion, urination, sexual function, your body's ability to regulate temperature, and heart and blood vessel function, including blood pressure. Symptoms may include:
The type of symptoms you have depends on the kind of atypical neuropathy you have.
Mononeuropathy can cause:
Polyradiculoneuropathy can cause:
These symptoms may be caused by other serious conditions. See your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.
During a physical exam, your doctor may check how well you can feel light touch, temperature, pain, vibration, and movement. Your doctor may also check your strength and reflexes. Tests such as an electromyogram and nerve conduction studies may be done to confirm the diagnosis. You may need other tests to see which type of neuropathy you have and to help guide your treatment.
Doctors can't test for all types of nerve damage. So it's important to tell your doctor about any pain or weakness you feel. Also mention heavy sweating or dizziness and any changes in digestion, urination, and sexual function.
Treatment for diabetic neuropathy involves keeping blood sugar levels in your target range. This will not cure nerve damage. But it can help keep the damage from getting worse. And it may help relieve pain.
It helps to have healthy habits, such as seeing your doctor regularly, controlling your blood pressure, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, and limiting or avoiding alcohol.
If diabetic neuropathy gets worse, you may have serious problems such as severe gastroparesis, bladder infections, or foot problems. Along with keeping your blood sugars in your target range and taking good care of your feet, you may need more treatment.
Diabetic neuropathy is a major risk factor for foot infections or foot ulcers. This may lead to amputation. It is possible to have permanent damage in one or both of your feet (such as Charcot foot) from diabetic neuropathy. Surgery is sometimes needed to repair deformed joints that can result from Charcot foot.
Severe bladder infections or other bladder problems may require more testing and treatment.
Also, it is common to have symptoms of depression with any long-term (chronic) disease. Getting help for depression may improve your overall well-being and help you treat your condition.
Current as of:
April 13, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKarin M. Lindholm DO - Neurology
Current as of: April 13, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Karin M. Lindholm DO - Neurology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.