Referring to nerve-related pain associated with diabetes, diabetic neuropathy can occur for several reasons, although it’s often linked to sustained high blood sugar levels. The resulting pain is a sign that nerves, usually in your legs or feet, have been damaged. Symptoms can range from mild to disabling. There are several treatments available to help minimize discomfort if you do experience diabetic neuropathy. Successful management of nerve pain includes a combination of treatment options mixed with lifestyle changes and better control of your blood sugar levels.
Affecting approximately 60-70 percent of people with diabetes, diabetic neuropathy has several possible causes and contributing factors, with long-term, elevated glucose levels being the primary cause. There are different types of neuropathy, with peripheral neuropathy being the type that’s most common among diabetics. It’s caused when diabetes damages the part of a nerve that sends signals to the brain to identify changes in sensations like pain and temperature. Autonomic and motor nerves may also be affected by diabetic nerve damage, resulting in issues with movement and the regulation of body temperature.
Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy can vary greatly depending on the extent of the nerve damage have at any given time. Since diabetic nerve damage may result in reduced sensitivity or a loss of feeling in your feet, it’s important to be mindful of potential issues with your feet. Signs of some type of diabetic nerve damage are often mild at first. If blood sugar levels remain consistently high for several months or years, nerve damage is likely to spread and increase the severity of the pain or lead to a complete lack of feeling or sensation. Symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy include:
- Burning sensations in affected areas
- A “pins and needles” sensation that comes and goes
- Sharp pains or cramps
- Loss of coordination and balance
- Numbness and tingling
Diabetic neuropathy is initially treated by developing a better understanding of what nerves are affected. Testing may include electrodiagnostic studies to identify nerve abnormalities. Even non-traditional treatments like acupuncture may benefit some patients, with 77 percent of the participants in one long-term study of patients with diabetic nerve damage reporting “significant improvement” after a series of sessions. Although there is no cure for nerve pain, symptoms of diabetic neuropathy may be eased with a combination of treatments, including:
- Pain relieving medications
- Nutrition and wellness counseling
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Keeping blood sugar levels within target range
- Acupuncture and biofeedback
Effectively managing diabetic neuropathy involves a combination of medication and pain management techniques; along with developing a better understanding of your nutritional and dietary needs. It’s a process that will also include careful monitoring of your blood sugar and positive lifestyle choices. While diabetic nerve damage can’t be reversed, symptoms can often be managed to the point where quality of life can be restored or maintained if you’re among the nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population living with diabetes.
Contact Allied Pain & Spine Institute today to schedule an appointment for you or a family member.