Diabetic Neuropathy

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Diabetic neuropathy facts

  • Diabetic neuropathy is damage to nerves that occurs as a result of diabetes.
  • Diabetes is thought to damage nerves as a result of prolonged elevated levels of blood glucose.
  • Different types of diabetic neuropathy include peripheral neuropathy, focal neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and proximal neuropathy.
  • Peripheral neuropathy most commonly causes pain, burning, tingling, and numbness of the feet and lower legs.
  • Autonomic neuropathy causes symptoms related to dysfunction of an organ system, such as urinary incontinence, diarrhea or constipation, or sexual dysfunction.
  • Diagnosis of diabetic neuropathy is usually done by a clinical exam.
  • There is no cure for diabetic neuropathy, but treatments are available to manage the symptoms.
  • Diabetic nerve pain may be controlled by medications such as tricyclic antidepressants, duloxetine (Cymbalta), or certain antiseizure medications.
  • Lidocaine and capsaicin are two topical agents that can help relieve nerve pain in many people.
  • Keeping tight control of blood sugar levels is the best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy and other complications of diabetes.

What is diabetic neuropathy?

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Neuropathy is damage to nerves, and diabetic neuropathy is damage to nerves that occurs as a result of diabetes. Diabetes is thought to damage nerves as a result of prolonged elevated levels of blood glucose. Diabetic neuropathy can affect different parts of the body, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Diabetic neuropathy is the most common complication of diabetes.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/2/2013

Patient Comments

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Diabetic Neuropathy - Effective Treatments Question: Please describe what treatments have been effective for your diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic Neuropathy - Symptoms and Signs Question: What symptoms and signs did you experience with your diabetic neuropathy?
Diabetic Neuropathy - Experience With Diabetic Focal Neuropathy Question: Please describe your experience with diabetic focal neuropathy.
Diabetic Neuropathy - Other Conditions Question: What other conditions did you develop with your diabetic neuropathy?
Diabetic Neuropathy - Self-Care Question: Please share self-care tips that help relieve symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy.

Diabetic Neuropathy Treatment

Medical Author Dr. Ruchi Mathur
Medical Editor Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler

Viewer question: I have diabetic neuropathy all over my body (legs, feet, skin is very sensitive to temperature and clothing). Anything touching my skin feels like sandpaper, and temperature changes cause me to have the shakes and severe pain. The pain medication I have been using isn't working. What are treatment options for a patient with diabetic neuropathy?

Doctor's response:

There are newer medications on the market that may be of benefit called duloxetine (Cymbalta) and Lyrica. You should speak with your doctor about the possibility of trying these agents either alone or in combination with other medication. I would also suggest having a referral to a neurologist for a full evaluation to make certain there is nothing else exacerbating your condition (for example, underlying never disorders, sciatica, etc) and perhaps consider getting an evaluation to look at the blood circulation in the legs. Claudication (an intermittent, cramping pain in the legs that occurs with walking that is related to poor blood circulation) can exacerbate neuropathic pain.

Best of luck and thank you for your question.