Diabetics have a 60% chance of developing neuropathy, which is nerve damage that leads to diabetes nerve pain. In diabetic neuropathy, diabetes destroys small blood vessels which can damage the nerves, causing nerve pain, usually felt in the hands or feet first. For people with diabetes, nerve pain is most common in those who do not control their blood sugar levels, and those with high blood pressure, high blood fat levels, and excessive weight. Other factors include neurovascular and autoimmune issues, nerve damage or genetic susceptibility to nerve disease. Alcohol drinkers and smokers are also at greater risk.

Symptoms of Nerve Pain from Diabetes


The two common types of diabetic nerve damage are peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy. The first has symptoms such as burning or tingling (often in the toes or feet), sudden infection, sharp pain, numbness, muscle weakness, extreme sensitivity, and loss of balance. With the second, one might have chronic diarrhea or constipation, indigestion and abdominal pain, faintness or dizziness upon standing, urination problems, and eye sensitivity. Diabetic nerve pain can also occur in the thigh, leading to pain in the entire leg.

How do you know if you have nerve pain caused by diabetes? Nerve pain is different from muscle pain. Muscle pain causes stiffness, aching, swelling and muscle tenderness or cramps. Nerve pain is more sudden, such as a stabbing or shooting pain, and there may also be burning, numbness or a tingling feeling. If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor immediately. Diabetes nerve pain can be a serious problem. According to research, 64% of diabetes nerve pain sufferers said it interfered with important daily activities.


Diabetes and Nerve Pain: Care and Treatment


Medicines used to treat diabetes nerve pain typically fall into three categories – those which treat the underlying nerve damage, those which can dull the pain symptoms, and those which treat depression (often a concurrent symptom). However, these medications only mask the pain rather than treat the cause, and they may have serious side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, blurry vision, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

The best way to avoid diabetes nerve pain is to care for your feet and legs by having them examined regularly, wear good shoes, monitor blood sugar and cholesterol, exercise and eat healthy foods. Diabetics who smoke should quit immediately and heavy drinkers should reduce their alcohol intake.

Physical therapy may also be used for pain relief. Doctors may prescribe specific exercise programs that concentrate on muscle strengthening. Aerobic exercise such as swimming can improve circulation and help relieve symptoms caused by nerve damage, but running and excessive walking, which may both put extra pressure on the feet, might not be a good idea. Diabetes patients should consult with their doctor before starting any new exercise regime.