Neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes, affecting both type 1 and type 2 patients. In diabetic neuropathy, damage to the nerves can occur due to long-term high blood sugar levels. This can lead to pain, loss of feeling, and even paralysis. The condition usually develops slowly, but can become more severe over time. Treatment involves managing blood sugar levels, restoring nerve function, medication and therapy.

Diabetic neuropathy can affect any part of the body, causing a variety of symptoms. If you have diabetes, it’s important to regularly check your blood glucose level. You may also need to monitor your nerve function with tests like the nerve conduction velocity(NCV).

What are the different types of diabetic neuropathy?

  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Autonomic neuropathy
  • Focal neuropathy

There are different types of diabetic neuropathy, and each type affects people differently. The most common type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy, which affects the nerves in the hands, feet, and legs. This type of neuropathy can cause tingling, numbness, pain, and burning sensations in these areas. Another type of diabetic neuropathy is autonomic neuropathy, which affects the autonomic nervous system.

This system controls things like heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion. Autonomic neuropathy can cause problems with digestion, heart rate and blood pressure, and sexual function. The last type of diabetic neuropathy is called focal neuropathy. This type affects just one area of the body, such as the eyes or mouth. Focal neuropathy can cause vision problems or problems with speech or swallowing.

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Diabetic Neuropathy and How to Treat

Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. The symptoms can vary, but they typically include numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in one or more fingers or toes. If you have diabetes and notice these early symptoms, you should see your doctor. There’s no cure for peripheral neuropathy, but there are treatments that can help improve your quality of life. Treatment options include medication and therapy.

People with peripheral neuropathy may be more vulnerable to getting injured or getting infections. This is because the nerves that supply the arms and legs can become damaged, and this can make it hard for the person to move their limbs or feel them. In serious cases, this can lead to amputation. There are things that you can do to protect yourself from these types of injuries, but it’s important to know about the risks so that you can take steps to avoid them.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy

  • Numbness, tingling, or a “pins and needles” sensation in the hands, feet, or other affected areas.
  • Sharp, stabbing, burning, or throbbing pain, which may be worse at night.
  • Muscle weakness, cramps, or twitching.
  • Loss of muscle mass, particularly in the hands and feet.
  • Sensitivity to touch or changes in temperature.
  • Coordination and balance problems, increasing the risk of falls.
  • Skin, hair, or nail changes in the affected areas.
  • Sweating abnormalities, either excessive or reduced sweating.
  • Loss of reflexes, especially in the ankles.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness due to changes in blood pressure.
  • Digestive issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, or incontinence.
  • Sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction in men and vaginal dryness or pain during intercourse in women.
  • Trouble sensing heat or cold, leading to an increased risk of burns or frostbite.
Diabetic Neuropathy and How to Treat

Autonomic neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions such as heart rate, digestion, and urination. Autonomic neuropathy may be caused by damage to the autonomic nerves themselves or by damage to the organs they control. The underlying cause of the neuropathy must be identified and treated if possible. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life.

Symptoms of Autonomic neuropathy

  • Orthostatic hypotension: A sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up, leading to dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting.
  • Tachycardia: An abnormally fast resting heart rate.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Difficulty swallowing, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying).
  • Urinary problems: Difficulty starting or stopping urination, incontinence, or an inability to completely empty the bladder.
  • Sexual dysfunction: Erectile dysfunction in men or vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse, or difficulty achieving orgasm in women.
  • Sweating abnormalities: Excessive or reduced sweating, or an inability to regulate body temperature.
  • Pupil abnormalities: Difficulty adjusting to changes in light or an inability of the pupils to constrict and dilate properly.
  • Breathing difficulties: Sleep apnea or irregular breathing patterns during sleep.
  • Dry mouth and eyes: Reduced production of saliva and tears, leading to increased risk of dental problems and eye irritation.

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Diabetic Neuropathy and How to Treat

Focal neuropathy

Focal neuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves in a specific area of the body. This type of neuropathy can cause weakness, numbness, and pain in the affected area. The cause of focal neuropathy is often unknown, but it may be due to damage to the nerves or blood vessels. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms and may include medications, physical therapy, and surgery.

Symptoms of Focal neuropathy

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: A common focal neuropathy affecting the median nerve in the wrist, causing numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain in the fingers, hand, and sometimes the forearm.
  • Ulnar neuropathy: Affects the ulnar nerve, which runs along the inner side of the arm and through the elbow, causing numbness, tingling, or pain in the ring and little fingers, as well as weakness in hand muscles.
  • Meralgia paresthetica: Involves the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve in the thigh, causing numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation on the outer thigh.
  • Peroneal neuropathy: Affects the peroneal nerve, which runs near the surface of the outer part of the lower leg, causing foot drop, weakness in foot and ankle movements, and numbness or tingling in the lower leg and top of the foot.
  • Radial neuropathy: Involves the radial nerve, which runs down the arm and controls movement in the triceps, wrist, and fingers, causing wrist drop, numbness, or pain in the forearm, hand, or fingers.
  • Bell’s palsy: Affects the facial nerve, causing sudden, temporary weakness or paralysis on one side of the face, drooping of the mouth or eyelid, and difficulty closing the eye or smiling.
  • Occipital neuralgia: Involves the occipital nerves at the base of the skull, causing severe, sharp, or throbbing pain in the upper neck, back of the head, or behind the ears.
  • Intercostal neuralgia: Affects the intercostal nerves between the ribs, causing sharp, burning, or aching pain in the chest, upper back, or abdomen.

Lastly, Diabetic neuropathy is a serious complication of diabetes that can lead to nerve damage, foot ulcers, and even amputation. It is important for people with diabetes to be aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy and to seek medical treatment if they experience any of these symptoms. There are treatments available for diabetic neuropathy that can help to improve the patient’s quality of life.


What is diabetic neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that occurs in people with diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage nerves throughout the body, leading to various symptoms and complications.

What are the different types of diabetic neuropathy?

There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, focal neuropathy, and proximal neuropathy. Each type affects different parts of the body and can cause a variety of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy?

Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy can vary depending on the type and the nerves affected. Common symptoms include numbness, tingling, pain, muscle weakness, balance issues, sensitivity to touch, changes in blood pressure, digestive problems, sexual dysfunction, and vision problems.

How is diabetic neuropathy diagnosed?

Diagnosing diabetic neuropathy typically involves a thorough medical history, a physical examination, and tests to assess nerve function, such as nerve conduction studies and electromyography (EMG). Other tests may be performed to rule out other potential causes of neuropathy.

How can diabetic neuropathy be treated?

There is no cure for diabetic neuropathy, but treatments can help manage symptoms and prevent further nerve damage. Treatment options include maintaining optimal blood sugar levels, using medications for pain management, and participating in physical or occupational therapy.

How can diabetic neuropathy be prevented?

The best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy is to maintain good blood sugar control. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and regular blood sugar monitoring can help. Additionally, proper foot care, regular check-ups with your healthcare provider, and early intervention for any symptoms are important in preventing complications.

Can diabetic neuropathy lead to amputation?

In severe cases, diabetic neuropathy can lead to foot ulcers, infections, and a loss of sensation in the limbs, which can increase the risk of amputation. Maintaining good blood sugar control and taking care of your feet can help reduce this risk.

What medications are commonly used to treat diabetic neuropathy pain?

Some common medications used to manage diabetic neuropathy pain include anticonvulsants (e.g., gabapentin, pregabalin), antidepressants (e.g., duloxetine, amitriptyline), and opioids (e.g., tramadol, oxycodone) for severe cases. Topical treatments, such as lidocaine or capsaicin, may also be helpful.

How does diabetic neuropathy affect daily life?

Diabetic neuropathy can have a significant impact on daily life, causing pain, mobility issues, and problems with activities that require fine motor skills. It may also lead to difficulty in maintaining employment, participating in hobbies, and engaging in social activities.

How can I manage the emotional impact of diabetic neuropathy?

Managing the emotional impact of diabetic neuropathy may involve seeking support from friends, family, or support groups, participating in counseling or therapy, or using relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation. It’s important to discuss any emotional concerns with your healthcare provider, as they can help guide you to appropriate resources.


  • Tesfaye, S., Boulton, A.J., Dyck, P.J., Freeman, R., Horowitz, M., Kempler, P., Lauria, G., Malik, R.A., Spallone, V., Vinik, A. and Bernardi, L., 2010. Diabetic neuropathies: update on definitions, diagnostic criteria, estimation of severity, and treatments. Diabetes care, 33(10), p.2285.
  • Feldman, E.L., Stevens, M.J. and Greene, D.A., 1997. Pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathy. Clinical neuroscience (New York, NY), 4(6), pp.365-370.
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