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Peripheral Neuropathy and Diabetes

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

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.

Warm Water Treatment for Diabetic Neuropathy

Some people find that a regular warm bath provides some relief from mild nerve pain. Warm baths boost blood flow to the skin of the legs and feet. And because they're relaxing and stress- reducing, they can help make pain easier to tolerate.

"Warm baths are a good, safe option," says Kinsella, as long as you're careful about the heat. "Check the water temperature with your arm, not your feet, before stepping in."

Vitamin B Complex May Help Nerve Pain

The B vitamins (B-1, B-12, B-6, and folic acid) are essential for nerve health. Most people get enough B vitamins just from eating a healthy diet, but controlled studies differ on whether taking a B vitamin supplement improves nerve pain. 

Kinsella recommends taking daily B vitamins because they are "a generally inexpensive, safe measure that will help some people." He advises 25 milligrams of thiamine (B-1), 500 micrograms of B-12, 25 milligrams of B-6, and at least 1 milligram of folic acid.

He cautions against higher doses of B-6. "Don't go higher than 50 milligrams a day." Kinsella says. Taking the supplement in high doses and long term can lead to toxicity, and cause pain and numbness in the hands and legs, and in severe cases even difficulty walking.   

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