Diabetic Neuropathy - Topic Overview
nerve disease or damage. Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by
diabetes. People who have diabetes often have high blood
sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage nerves throughout
There are three kinds of diabetic neuropathy.
- Peripheral neuropathy is damage to
peripheral nerves. These are the nerves that sense
pain, touch, hot, and cold. They also affect movement and muscle strength. The
nerves in the feet and lower legs are most often affected. This type of nerve
damage can lead to serious foot problems. The damage usually gets worse slowly,
over months or years.
- Autonomic neuropathy is damage to
autonomic nerves. These nerves control things like
your heartbeat, blood pressure, sweating, digestion, urination, and sexual
- Focal neuropathy affects just one
nerve, usually in the wrist, thigh, or foot. It may also affect the nerves of
your back and chest and those that control your eye muscles. This type of nerve
damage usually happens suddenly.
Over time, high
blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage nerves throughout your body. The
higher your blood sugar levels, the more likely you are to have nerve damage.
So controlling your blood sugar throughout your life is very important.
The older you get, and the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you
are to have nerve damage. People who have diabetes who drink too much alcohol are
also more likely to have nerve damage.
Your symptoms will depend
on which nerves are injured. You may not be able to feel pain, especially in
your feet. This can lead to serious infections, because sores or other problems
may not get treated.
When other parts of your body are affected,
symptoms may include:
- Problems with digestion, such as bloating,
belching, constipation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and belly pain.
- Problems with body temperature, such as heavy sweating at night
or when you eat certain foods. Some people may have reduced sweating,
especially in their feet and legs.
- Problems with urination, such
as finding it hard to tell when your bladder is full or finding it hard to
empty your bladder completely.
- Sexual problems, such as erection
problems in men and vaginal dryness in women.
- Heart and blood
vessel problems, leading to poor circulation or low blood pressure. This may
cause dizziness, weakness, or fainting when you stand or sit up from a
- Trouble sensing when your blood sugar is low.
will check how well you feel light touch and temperature and will test your
strength and your reflexes. Tests such as
nerve conduction studies may be done to confirm the
diagnosis. You may need other tests to see which type of neuropathy you have
and to help guide your treatment.
Doctors can't test for all types
of nerve damage. So it's important to tell your doctor about any pain or
weakness you feel. Also mention heavy sweating or dizziness and any changes in
digestion, urination, and sexual function.