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Diabetic Neuropathy - Treatment Overview

Autonomic neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy—which affects nerves that regulate internal functions—can affect digestion, urination, sweating, sexual function, blood pressure, and other involuntary body functions. Some symptoms of autonomic neuropathy can be hard to manage, but others respond well to treatment:

  • Mild constipation. Eating small, frequent meals that are high in fiber and low in fat may help.
  • Frequent diarrhea. Eating foods that are high in fiber may help. You may need medicines that slow the rate at which digested food and waste travel through the intestines, or you may need antibiotics such as amoxicillin, metronidazole, or tetracycline.
  • Mild gastroparesis. This is a condition that causes the stomach to empty very slowly. It may get better if you eat small, frequent meals that are low in fiber and fat. Medicines that help the stomach empty more quickly may also be needed. Controlling blood sugar levels may reduce symptoms of gastroparesis.
  • Abnormal sweating. If you sweat a lot, try to avoid intense heat and humidity. If you don't sweat enough, you can use moisturizers to help with dry or cracked skin. Drinking more water can prevent overheating. Try to avoid places that are very hot or very cold.
  • Lack of awareness of low blood sugar level. This is also called hypoglycemia unawareness. You can adjust your insulin and allow your blood sugar levels to be a little bit higher than the target range. Usually it is recommended that you keep your A1c in a target range.
  • Urinary problems. Urinary problems can be treated with antibiotics for urinary tract infections and medicines to improve bladder control.
  • Sexual problems. Your doctor may suggest using medicines or devices to improve erections. Or you may need nonprescription lubricants and estrogen creams for vaginal dryness.
  • Blood pressure problems.High blood pressure may be treated with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, such as benazepril and enalapril. Low blood pressure can be treated with medicines and by wearing support stockings (also called compression stockings).

Treatment if the condition gets worse

If diabetic neuropathy gets worse, you may have serious problems such as severe gastroparesis, bladder infections, or foot problems. In addition to keeping your blood sugars in your target range and taking good care of your feet, you may need further treatment if diabetic neuropathy progresses.

Diabetic neuropathy is a major risk factor for foot infections or foot ulcers leading to amputation. It is possible to have permanent disfigurement in one or both of your feet (such as Charcot foot camera.gif) from diabetic neuropathy. Surgery is sometimes needed to correct deformed joints that can result from Charcot foot.

Severe gastroparesis may require other treatment, such as medicines that empty the stomach more quickly or a feeding tube that is inserted into the stomach.

Severe bladder infections or other bladder problems, such as loss of control, may require further diagnostic testing and treatments such as medicines or surgery to improve bladder function.

Also, it is common to experience symptoms of depression with any chronic disease, such as diabetes or diabetic neuropathy. Seeking help for depression may improve your overall well-being and aid in the treatment of your condition.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 12, 2012
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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