Skip to content

    Diabetes Health Center

    Font Size

    What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?

    Diabetes can harm your nerves. That damage, called neuropathy, may be painful.

    It can happen in several ways, and they all seem to be related to blood sugar levels being too high for too long. To prevent it, work with your doctor to manage your blood sugar.

    Recommended Related to Diabetes

    6 Tips if You're Tired of Your Diabetes

    When you have diabetes, it can feel like your daily to-do list is endless. You're tracking your blood sugars, medications, diet, and exercise. That can be a lot to take care of every day. It can make you feel burned out. "When you have a chronic illness, everybody wants a day off from that, or a week or a month off," says David Spero, RN, author of Diabetes: Sugar-Coated Crisis. But you can't do that with diabetes. So how do you avoid diabetes burnout and keep a positive mindset? Some days will...

    Read the 6 Tips if You're Tired of Your Diabetes article > >

    You may hear your doctor mention the four types of diabetes-related neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal.

    Peripheral Neuropathy

    This type usually affects the feet and legs. Rare cases affect the arms, abdomen, and back.

    Symptoms include:

    • Tingling
    • Numbness (which may become permanent)
    • Burning (especially in the evening)
    • Pain

    Early symptoms usually get better when your blood sugar is under control. There are medications to help manage the discomfort.

    What you should do:

    • Check your feet and legs daily.
    • Use lotion on your feet if they're dry.
    • Take care of your toenails. Ask your doctor if you should go to a podiatrist.
    • Wear shoes that fit well. Wear them all the time, so your feet don't get injured.


    Autonomic Neuropathy

    This type usually affects the digestive system, especially the stomach. It can also affect the blood vessels, urinary system, and sex organs.

    In your digestive system:

    Symptoms include:

    • Bloating
    • Diarrhea
    • Constipation
    • Heartburn
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Feeling full after small meals

    What you should do: You may need to eat smaller meals and take medication to treat it.

    In blood vessels:

    Symptoms include: 

    • Blacking out when you stand up quickly
    • Faster heartbeat
    • Dizziness
    • Low blood pressure
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Feeling full sooner than normal

    If you have it: Avoid standing up too quickly. You may also need to wear special stockings (ask your doctor about them) and take medicine.

    In Men:

    Symptoms include: He may not be able to have or keep an erection, or he may have “dry” or reduced ejaculations. 

    What you should do: See your doctor, because there are other possible causes than diabetes. Treatment includes:

    • Counseling
    • Penile implant or injections
    • Vacuum erection device
    • Medication

    In Women

    Symptoms include: Can include less vaginal lubrication and fewer or no orgasms.

    What you should do: See your doctor. Treatments include:

    • Vaginal estrogen creams, suppositories, and rings
    • Medications to help sex not feel painful
    • Lubricants

    In the Urinary System:

    Symptoms include:

    • Trouble emptying your bladder
    • Bloating
    • Incontinence (leaking urine)
    • More bathroom trips at night

    What you should do: Tell your doctor. Treatments may include:

    • Medication
    • Inserting a catheter into the bladder to release urine (self-catheterization)
    • Surgery


    Today on WebMD

    Diabetic tools
    Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
    woman flexing muscles
    10 strength training exercises.
    Blood sugar test
    12 practical tips.
    Tom Hanks
    Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
    kenneth fujioka, md
    Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
    Middle aged person
    jennie brand miller

    Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
    type 2 diabetes
    food fitness planner