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In addition to having regular medical checkups, the best way to avoid the progression of diabetic neuropathy is to control your blood sugar, take good care of your feet, and practice wise health habits.

Control your blood sugar level

The single most important step you can take to prevent the development and progression of diabetic neuropathy is to keep your blood sugar level (A1c) consistently within a tightly controlled and narrow target range.

Keeping your blood sugar level within the target range also helps decrease your chances of getting other complications from diabetes, such as eye disease and kidney problems. For more information, see the topic Type 1 Diabetes: Living With the Disease or Type 2 Diabetes.

Take care of your feet

Diabetic neuropathy affects the feet more often than any other part of the body. Diabetes interferes with your body's ability to fight infection, so that even a minor foot injury such as a blister, a scratch, or athlete's foot can lead to serious infections or amputation. But serious foot problems are the most preventable complications of diabetes.

Because the nerve damage caused by diabetic neuropathy may make you less likely to notice minor problems with your feet, it is wise to inspect your feet every day. Protect them from injury by wearing properly fitted shoes and socks at all times. Woolen socks are the softest and can help prevent minor injuries. If vision problems from diabetic retinopathy or another eye disease make it hard for you to examine your feet, have someone help you.

For more information, see:

Diabetes: Taking Care of Your Feet.

If you have severe numbness, a history of skin sores, or bone and joint deformities (such as Charcot foot), you may benefit from custom-fitted shoes. Medicare and some health insurance plans will pay for these shoes if they are needed.

Practice wise health habits

Many doctors believe that you can further reduce your risk of getting severe neuropathy if you:

  • See your doctor regularly. Your doctor will be able to note any changes in your health more easily when you plan regular visits. It will be easier for you and your doctor to find problems early and to take care of them right away.
  • Exercise regularly and stay at a healthy weight. Exercise and weight control can help your body use insulin better. This helps keep your blood sugar level within a tightly controlled and narrow target range, which may help prevent the development and progression of nerve damage. Talk to your doctor and have a thorough exam of your feet before starting an exercise program. Foot problems, blood pressure problems, or certain other problems linked to neuropathy may raise unique concerns about exercising safely, such as whether you should avoid repetitive, weight-bearing exercises.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Having four or more drinks a week may make neuropathy and its symptoms worse.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Consider taking a daily multivitamin to ensure that you are meeting your nutritional needs. A balanced diet can also help you maintain a healthy weight. If you have gastroparesis, eat several small meals a day instead of three regular meals.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 13, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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