Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type of
diabetic neuropathy. It occurs when diabetes damages
sensory nerves, which allow the brain to respond to sensations like pain,
touch, temperature, and vibration. Peripheral neuropathy may also damage the
motor nerves, which work with the muscles to control movement.
The effects and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy develop slowly over
months or years. The first symptom is usually a slight burning sensation in the
affected area. If blood sugar levels remain high over several years, the
burning sensation greatly increases and then slowly goes away. It is replaced
by a complete lack of feeling and sensation, or numbness, making the person
more likely to injure the affected area.
Even before you notice symptoms, high blood sugar can damage parts of your
body. That's why certain diabetes
tests to check blood sugar control and to catch problems early are so
But many patients aren't getting key diabetes tests at least annually,
such as the hemoglobin A1c test, a dilated
eye exam, and a foot exam.
"If you look at the nationwide data, it's sobering," says Enrico
Cagliero, MD, a diabetes researcher and assistant professor of medicine at
Harvard Medical School...
Although peripheral neuropathy can develop almost anywhere in the
body, it most often affects the feet and legs. Loss of the protective
sensation—the reduced ability to feel pain—in the feet may lead to the
formation of calluses and blisters, bone and joint problems, infection, and
foot ulcers. For instance, small, repetitive injuries to the foot, such as
those caused by a poorly fitting shoe, may lead to bigger problems simply
because the person is unaware of them. Reduced feeling in the feet can also
alter a person's step, leading to bone or joint problems.
If untreated, foot problems can become so severe that the foot or
lower leg may have to be amputated.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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
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