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Peripheral Neuropathy and Diabetes

Experts describe 10 ways to treat diabetic nerve pain at home.

The Top Neuropathic Pain Treatment: Controlling Blood Sugar Levels

When it comes to reducing pain from diabetic neuropathy, "controlling your sugar isn't just your No. 1 strategy; it's practically the whole top ten," says McLaughlin.

The toxic effects of high blood sugar are what cause nerve damage and nerve pain in the first place. Continued high sugar "only lets the process continue," says McLaughlin. But keeping sugars close to normal can stop ongoing damage and improve the pain of diabetic neuropathy, studies show. And because some diabetic nerve damage might be reversible, reducing sugar may have even more benefits.

Preventing Neuropathic Pain With Foot Care

Nerve pain is often what brings people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy to see a doctor. But it's numbness in the feet that lands them in the hospital, Kinsella tells WebMD. "It's the little rock you stepped on five days ago without feeling it," Kinsella says, that can lead to "poorly healing ulcers, infections, and even amputations."

Some ways to care for your feet:

  • Clean and inspect them every day. "Any sore or ulcer that isn't healing normally is worth showing to a podiatrist or your primary doctor," Kinsella says.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Kinsella suggests asking for help at a store that specializes in shoes for neuropathic feet.
  • Wear socks with padding at the ball of the foot and the heel.
  • Cut your toenails straight across or allow a podiatrist to cut them for you. When it comes to avoiding complications, says Kinsella, a podiatrist trim "costs about ten bucks, and it's money well spent."

Walking to Heal Damaged Nerves

Because exercise improves blood flow to leg and foot nerves, a regular exercise program may nourish damaged nerves back to health. A landmark study found that a program of regular walking prevented neuropathy in most people with diabetes during the course of the study. Walking also slowed the progression of neuropathy in those who had already developed the condition.

"Exercise helps reduce blood sugars overall," McLaughlin points out, making diabetes easier to control. Also, exercise increases people's tolerance levels for nerve pain, she says.

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