Diabetic Neuropathy: Nerve Pain Risk in Diabetics

Diabetes Testing

Test For Diabetes

It was World Diabetes Day on 14 November and this is Diabetes Awareness Month. So I thought I’d look at a condition called diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic nerve pain is something that a person can walk into the chiropractors office with and not know what it is. There are times when that trapped nerve pain feeling you are getting could be the result of having diabetes.

Diabetes affecting the nerves is called diabetic neuropathy. So what is diabetic neuropathy, what are the symptoms, the different types and what should you do to treat diabetic nerve pain. That is what todays article is about.

Diabetes and Nerve Damage

Diabetic Neuropathy Symptoms

When a patient comes into the chiropractor with a pinched nerve feeling it could be the beginnings of a diabetic neuropathy. The first symptom of diabetes affecting the nerves could be pain. So you might have pain in your feet or hands. This is the “glove and stocking” distribution of diabetic neuropathy.

Pain is not the only symptom of diabetes damage to the nerve. Loss of sensation for hot, cold, vibration or numbness and pins and needles (paraesthesia) are other diabetic neuropathy symptoms. There maybe muscle wasting if the nerve has been damaged for a long time.

So you can see what might be thought of just a simple pinched nerve in a person with diabetes could be more sinister.

Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy symptoms can depend on which of the three types of diabetic neuropathy you may have. The difference depends on the type of nerve that is damaged.

  1. Autonomic neuropathy – involuntary muscle (intestine, bladder, sweat glands etc…)
  2. Sensory neuropathy – skin
  3. Motor neuropathy – voluntary muscle

Causes of Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy damage isn’t fully understood yet. How having too much sugar in your blood or abnormal insulin levels and how that actually damages the nerve tissue is still being investigated. But diabetes can cause nerve damage that is for sure either directly through the nerve or the blood vessel supplying nutrition to the nerve.

Treatment of Diabetic Neuropathy

Treatment will be done by your diabetes doctor or clinic. Usually they will try get your glucose and insulin levels back to normal ranges. Then the diabetic neuropathy treatment will vary depending on the degree of nerve damage and the where the damage has occured.

For instance diabetic neuropathy could result in a condition called “Charcot Foot”. Orthopaedic work may be required to fix the deformity.

A podiatrist would need to attend to ingrown toe nails causing infection or wounds that don’t heal.

Low level laser therapy may be of use to help skin wounds heal for diabetics.

In worst case scenarios amputation of toes or fingers is needed to stop the spread of infection from diabetic neuropathy having affected the extremities.

The best person for specific advice would be the doctor monitoring and helping you manage your diabetes. It is usually a team of healthcare professionals not just a GP but an endocrinologist, specialist nurse, podiatrist etc…

The most important thing with diabetic neuropathy is get it treated because the consequences are great if you don’t.

To get more help I have attached a leaflet guide about diabetic neuropathy from the charity Diabetes UK . If you would like to speak to someone about your diabetes or a family or friends condition then call them on 0845 120 2960, Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm.

Download (PDF, 44KB)

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd.