Effective Strategies for Diabetic Neuropathy: Early Signs and Expert Treatment


If you have diabetes, potential signs of diabetic neuropathy include tingling, pain, and other symptoms. This condition occurs when you develop nerve damage due to high blood pressure. Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication that occurs in roughly half of all people who have diabetes. The longer you have diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes, the higher your risk of diabetic neuropathy becomes.

Nerve damage can’t be reversed, but treatments can help ease neuropathic pain and other symptoms. The following information will help you understand diabetic neuropathy better and empower you to manage it proactively.

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Causes and Risk Factors of Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy develops when you have nerve damage because of diabetes. High blood sugar levels that persist for prolonged periods will damage small blood vessels that supply your nerves with nutrients and oxygen. This prevents your nerves from receiving essential nutrients, resulting in nerve damage and possible destruction over time.

Other factors also contribute to the development of diabetic neuropathy. Obesity or high blood pressure ranks among the most common risk factors. Other risk factors include smoking and having kidney disease.

Key Takeaway: High blood sugar levels are the leading cause of diabetic neuropathy, but other factors may contribute to it.

Symptoms and Complications of Diabetic Neuropathy

Knowing the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy may help you recognize signs that you’ve been experiencing it. Learning about the possible complications of this condition can also help you understand why it’s important to manage blood glucose levels and prevent additional nerve damage.

Keep in mind that symptoms vary depending on the type of diabetic neuropathy you have. For example, focal neuropathy can trigger sudden localized pain and weakness in a particular nerve or group of nerves anywhere in your body. Proximal neuropathy can cause muscle weakness in the buttocks, thighs, or pelvic area.

Numbness, Tingling, and Pain in the Extremities

Peripheral neuropathy, the most common type, mainly affects your limbs. Symptoms of this type include neuropathic pain, numbness, and tingling in your hands or feet. These are some of the earliest symptoms you might experience during the first stage of diabetic neuropathy. You may also have burning sensations in your extremities or experience sensitivity to touch.

Loss of Sensation and Potential for Injuries

Numbness in your extremities can lead to a loss of sensation, increasing the risk of injury. For example, losing sensation in your foot might make it harder for you to feel sores or other injuries.


Impaired Coordination and Balance

Autonomic neuropathy mainly affects the nerves that control involuntary bodily functions, such as heart rate, digestion, and blood pressure. Symptoms of this type might include problems with your coordination and balance. You may feel dizzy, especially when you stand up. You might also have other symptoms like digestive problems or trouble regulating blood pressure.

Infections and Ulcers

Peripheral neuropathy puts you at a higher risk of having infections and ulcers. Sores and wounds can go unnoticed and become infected when you don’t have sensation in your feet. Ulcers may develop, putting you at even greater risk of serious infections.

Key Takeaway: Diabetic neuropathy can affect different parts of your body or bodily functions, depending on the type you have.

Diagnosis and Assessment of Diabetic Neuropathy

How is diabetic neuropathy diagnosed? In addition to physical exams, specific tests and evaluations are performed to diagnose and assess this condition. The results help determine a suitable treatment plan to ease symptoms.

Physical Exam

Undergoing a physical exam enables the doctor to assess where damage has occurred and check for sores or other complications. During an exam, a physician can also review facts about your medical history, such as how long you’ve had diabetes and whether you’ve been able to manage blood sugar levels.

Nerve Conduction Studies and Electromyography Tests

Nerve conduction studies check how fast electrical signals move through your legs and arms. Electromyography tests use needles to measure the electrical discharges your muscles produce. These tests are usually done together.

Blood Sugar Control Evaluations

These evaluations help doctors determine how well your blood sugar levels have been controlled. Prolonged periods of high blood sugar levels give you a higher risk of having diabetic neuropathy.

Treatment Options for Diabetic Neuropathy

The nerve damage caused by diabetic neuropathy can’t be reversed. However, there are treatments that help manage pain, slow the progression of nerve damage, and restore function to bodily systems as needed. Consult your doctor for more information on treating this condition. The following can give you a basic understanding of the different types of treatments for diabetic neuropathy.

Importance of Pain Management

Managing pain is a crucial part of treating diabetic neuropathy. Neuropathic pain can be severe enough to interfere with daily activities. In some cases, this pain can become debilitating. Finding ways to manage pain helps ease discomfort and may allow you to resume your usual activities.

Medications for Pain Relief

Medications for diabetic neuropathy are sometimes used to provide pain relief. Some of the options include over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription medications, such as anticonvulsants and antidepressants. Topical medications, like lidocaine patches, are also used to manage neuropathic pain.

Physical Therapy and Exercise

Physical therapy can improve your flexibility if pain or other symptoms have affected your range of motion. This treatment also helps enhance balance and coordination, reducing the risk of injuries and falls. Regular exercise improves blood circulation while allowing you to maintain a healthy weight.

Blood Sugar Control and Lifestyle Changes

Controlling your blood sugar levels is among the most important ways to treat diabetic neuropathy. This may lower the risk of additional nerve damage. Making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and giving up smoking, also helps you manage diabetic neuropathy.

Key Takeaway: Treatment focuses on pain management, improved blood sugar control, and other approaches that reduce the risk of additional nerve damage. 

When to Seek Medical Help

How do you know when to see a doctor about diabetic neuropathy? If you suspect that you might have this condition, visit your doctor for testing. If you have already been diagnosed, remember the following to determine when you should seek medical help.

Symptom Progression

Be aware of your symptoms, and watch for any signs of worsening. For example, you might experience pain in your foot that becomes more of a tingling or numb sensation as additional nerve damage occurs.

Regular Check-ups and Monitoring

Schedule regular check-ups with your doctor to help monitor the progression of diabetic neuropathy. A doctor can assess your condition, check for signs of additional damage, and recommend treatments that address your symptoms, such as new or worsening pain.

Immediate Care for Complications

Diabetic neuropathy can cause several complications that require immediate medical attention. Knowing the signs of these complications will help ensure you understand when to get help immediately. These signs may include:

  • Steep and sudden drops in your blood pressure
  • Shakiness, rapid heartbeat, sweating, and other signs of hypoglycemia
  • Urinary tract infections or leakage due to incontinence
  • Ulcers or other wounds on your feet

Resources and Support for Diabetic Neuropathy

Western Reserve Hospital provides valuable resources and support for those who have diabetic neuropathy. Our physicians have expertise in treating this condition and helping patients manage pain. Educational materials and support groups are also available for patients and their families.

Proactively Manage Diabetic Neuropathy

Learning more about diabetic neuropathy empowers you to manage this condition before it can cause serious complications or interfere with your daily life. If you have noticed any signs of this condition, seek medical help for early intervention. Finding and treating diabetic neuropathy early will help you manage this condition effectively for improved health and well-being.

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