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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 contipation 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 trtcyclic ant-depressants, duloxetine (Cymbalta), or certain anti-seizure 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?

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.

What are the types of diabetic neuropathy?

There are different types of diabetic neuropathy. The distinction depends upon which types and location of nerves are affected.

  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathyrefers to damage to peripheral nerves, most commonly the nerves of the feet and legs.
  • Diabetic proximal neuropathyaffects nerves in the thighs, hips, or buttocks.
  • Diabetic autonomic neuropathy affects the autonomic nervous system, the nerves that control body functions. For example, it can affect nerves of the gastrointestinal, urinary, genital, or vascular systems.
  • Diabetic focal neuropathy affects a specific nerve or area at any site in the body.

 

Signs and symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Numbness or tingling of the feet and lower legs
  • Pain or burning sensations
  • Loss of sensation in the feet or lower legs
  • Sometimes, but less commonly, symptoms can occur in the hands or arms

 

Signs and symptoms of diabetic proximal neuropathy include:

  • Pain, usually on one side, in the hips, buttocks, or thighs
  • Weakness of the legs 

 

What are the treatments for diabetic neuropathy?

  • While diabetic neuropathy cannot be cured, there are treatments available to help manage some of the symptoms. Another treatment goal is keeping blood glucose levels under good control so that the neuropathy does not worsen.
  • The pain of diabetic neuropathy can sometimes be managed with certain medications. Certain prescription antidepressants and antiseizure medications have been shown to be effective in relieving pain that originates in the nerves.
  • For example, duloxetine (Cymbalta) is an antidepressant that can relieve the pain of diabetic neuropathy in some people. The tricyclic antidepressant drugs, including nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl) and desipramine(Norpramin), have also been used for this purpose.