Imagine a life where a gentle touch feels like a burning fire, where your feet are persistently numb, or where you constantly feel a stabbing pain in your legs. For many living with diabetes, this isn’t a mere imagination but a daily reality. These sensations aren’t just distressing; they can be debilitating, making the simplest tasks – like walking or wearing shoes – very challenging.
Nerve pain is a reality for many people with diabetes and is far from a mere inconvenience. It’s a significant health concern that can reduce a person’s quality of life.
For this reason, it’s essential to understand this condition, its symptoms, causes, and available treatments. It will help manage the discomfort and minimize further nerve damage. Read this blog to learn more.
What is Diabetes-Related Nerve Pain?
Diabetes-related nerve pain, or diabetic neuropathy, is a serious and common complication. Nerve damage occurs if one cannot control blood sugar levels properly.
High blood sugar levels can impair nerve transmission. It can also weaken the walls of the small blood vessels (capillaries) that provide the nerves with oxygen and nutrients.
While neuropathy can affect any nerve in the body, the nerves in the legs and feet are often the most vulnerable. It can cause various distressing symptoms ranging from pain and numbness in your extremities to heart and blood vessels complications.
Types of Neuropathy in Diabetes and Their Symptoms
Neuropathies related to diabetes are not a single condition but a group of disorders caused by nerve damage. We can classify these disorders into different types based on the affected nerves. Recognizing the specific symptoms of each type can help with early diagnosis and proper treatment.
1. Peripheral Neuropathy
When it affects a single nerve, we refer to it as mononeuropathy, and if there’s damage to multiple nerves, we classify it as peripheral polyneuropathy, which is the most common form of diabetic neuropathy.
The initial sign of neuropathy often produces tingling or prickly sensations, similar to pins and needles, in the feet (foot neuropathy) or fingers. This discomfort can spread upward into the legs, arms, and hands. Other symptoms include:
- Sharp pains or cramps
- Increased sensitivity to touch
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Burning or electric shock-like sensation
- A feeling of numbness or inability to feel pain or temperature changes
This form of neuropathy damages the autonomic nerves responsible for controlling internal organs such as the heart, bladder, eyes, sex organs, and digestive system. There will be different symptoms depending on the organs affected. They may include the following:
- Heart rate changes
- Increase or decrease in perspiration
- Sexual dysfunction in men and women
- Problems regulating body temperature
- Changes in digestion, bowel movements, or bladder function
3. Proximal Neuropathy
Also known as diabetic amyotrophy, this is a less common form of neuropathy, primarily affecting the hips, buttocks, or thighs. It usually starts on one side of the body, but it may spread to the other as it worsens.
- Weakness in the legs
- Pain in the hips, thighs, or buttocks
- Difficulty standing up from a seated position
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent & Delay Diabetic Neuropathy
The cornerstone of managing diabetes-related nerve pain involves a comprehensive approach focusing on lifestyle modifications. Together, these changes can help manage neuropathy symptoms, improve quality of life, and slow the progression.
1. Watch What You Eat
A healthy diet is vital to managing diabetes-related nerve pain, and it’s a must to understand foods to avoid neuropathy. These typically include foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats commonly found in processed food.
Instead, eat a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Go for foods high in vitamins B-12, B-6, E, niacin, and riboflavin to promote nerve health and reduce inflammation. Include omega-3 fatty acids in foods like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds. They work as an anti-inflammatory and can repair nerve damage.
Lastly, always stay well-hydrated for overall health and nerve function. Aim for eight glasses of water daily and avoid sugary drinks such as soda and fruit juices. To reduce the chances of developing diabetic neuropathy and promote nerve health, it is vital to make healthy dietary choices.
2. Keep Active
Exercise helps control blood sugar levels, promote weight loss, improve circulation, and reduce nerve pain. Combining aerobic activities (such as swimming or walking), strength training, and flexibility exercises can be beneficial. But remember to always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.
3. Quit Smoking
Smoking worsens circulatory problems, leading to more pain and faster progression of neuropathy. So it’s best to quit smoking to improve circulation and alleviate symptoms.
4. Get Enough Rest
A good night’s sleep is essential for nerve health and pain management. Adhering to good sleep hygiene practices—like maintaining a regular sleep schedule, creating a restful environment, and avoiding caffeine close to bedtime—can help improve sleep quality.
5. Take Good Care of Your Feet
Taking good care of your feet is important if you have diabetes, especially those with foot neuropathy. Daily foot checks, comfortable shoes, and regular podiatrist visits can help prevent complications.
6. Manage Your Stress
Stress can exacerbate nerve pain and complicate diabetes management. Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and tai chi reduce stress levels and aid in neuropathy management. Other stress management strategies include engaging in hobbies, maintaining a positive outlook, and seeking social support.
You may also try alternative therapies—acupuncture and acupressure help neuropathy by enhancing circulation and promoting nerve regeneration. Massage therapy is also beneficial, aiding relaxation and reducing pain.
Emotional and psychological support can also provide significant help for neuropathy. Joining support groups and seeking counseling is helpful, especially if the effects of nerve pain result in frustration, irritability, anxiety, and depression.
Frequently Asked Questions
This section answers the most commonly asked questions about diabetic nerve damage.
1. Is it possible to reverse diabetic neuropathies?
Nerve damage from diabetes is usually irreversible. But, optimal diabetes control and a healthy lifestyle can slow or halt nerve damage from progressing.
2. Is walking good for neuropathy?
In general, light-intensity walking can be beneficial in managing neuropathic symptoms. But again, it’s best to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. A comprehensive examination of your legs and feet is necessary to detect any indications of peripheral neuropathy.
When you have nerve damage in your feet, it is best to avoid repetitive, strenuous, weight-bearing exercises like running and long walks. These exercises may increase fracture risk.
3. What diabetic polyneuropathy treatments are available?
Alongside lifestyle modifications, certain medications for polyneuropathy can help manage symptoms. These include pain relievers, anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, and topical creams.
Medical procedures like nerve block injections or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may also provide relief. Always consult with healthcare professionals to choose the most appropriate treatment plan.
4. Who is most likely to develop diabetic neuropathy?
Most often, the condition affects individuals with long-term diabetes and those with poorly controlled blood sugar levels. It can start to occur after about ten years of having diabetes. Other health factors such as obesity, hypertension, and smoking can further increase one’s risk.
5. Is diabetic neuropathy common?
While individuals with diabetes can experience various types of nerve damage, studies indicate that nearly half of people with diabetes develop peripheral neuropathy. Additionally, more than 30 percent experience autonomic neuropathy.
Take Control of Diabetes!
Keeping blood sugar levels under control and making mindful lifestyle changes can significantly curb the effects of diabetes and the distressing symptoms of neuropathy.
However, lifestyle changes are just one part of the puzzle. It’s also crucial to seek professional help, and this is where Premier Health and Wellness Center can assist you. Our ultimate goal is to empower you to take control of your diabetes and its complications or even reverse the course of the disease with our DIABETES REVERSAL PROGRAM. Start your journey towards a healthier you! You may also call us at 441-292-5111 for more info!
Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Each individual’s health condition and medical history can vary, and it is essential to seek personalized advice before implementing any changes to your lifestyle or treatment plan.