What is Diabetic Nerve Pain?
posted: Oct. 01, 2020.
What is Diabetic Nerve Pain?
Diabetic nerve pain or diabetic neuropathy, as it is known medically, is a type of nerve damage that can affect people with diabetes. The condition affects nerves throughout the body, especially those in the legs and feet, leading to pain in the affected areas.
People with diabetic nerve pain often do not know they have the condition until extensive nerve damage has occurred. As a severe diabetic complication, diabetic neuropathy affects up to 50% of all people with diabetes. However, it is possible to manage the condition with consistent blood sugar management and healthy daily living habits.
- Diabetic nerve pain falls under four categories:
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Autonomic neuropathy
- Proximal neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type of diabetic nerve pain and affects the feet and legs first, then the arms and hands.
Peripheral neuropathy has the following symptoms:
- Numbness and a reduced ability to feel pain
- Sharp pains and cramps
- Tingling sensation
- Heightened sensitivity to touch
- Foot ulcers and infections
- Can affect foot joints and bones
People with peripheral neuropathy may not notice anything out of place until extensive nerve damage has occurred. Consequently, it is recommended that your foot doctor continuously screen you for nerve damage symptoms from the moment you are diagnosed with diabetes.
Causes and Risk Factors
Scientists do not know the exact cause of diabetic neuropathy. Research suggests that over time, high blood sugar damages the tiny capillaries that send nourishment to nerves. When this happens, parts of the nerve die, which interferes with your body’s ability to send signals to the brain.
When it comes to risk factors, anyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic nerve pain. However, several factors make it more likely that nerve damage will occur at an advanced rate:
- Uncontrolled blood sugar
- Diabetic history
- Kidney disease
- Being overweight
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diabetic nerve pain diagnosis usually involves a physical exam that checks your overall muscle strength and tone, sensitivity to touch and vibration, and tendon reflexes.
If your foot doctor suspects that you may have diabetic neuropathy, they may order further tests, including:
- Filament testing
- Nerve conduction testing
- Sensory testing
- Muscle response testing
When it comes to treating diabetic nerve pain, there is currently no known cure. Because of this, treatments target three main therapeutic areas:
- Slowing down the condition’s progression
- Pain relief
- Treating and managing complications
Preventing Diabetic Nerve Pain
Although diabetic nerve pain has no cure, it is possible to prevent or delay its onset through close blood sugar management and healthy foot habits.
Blood sugar management involves ensuring your blood sugar average, as measured over three months, is not higher than your recommended level. If your results are higher, you should have a doctor adjust your diet and medication.
Foot care is especially crucial for diabetes since issues like sores, ulcers, and infection are significant concerns. To forestall diabetic nerve pain, podiatrists recommend that you check your feet daily and ensure they are always clean, dry, and moisturized, and only wear cushioned shoes that fit well.