Diabetes: Don’t Ignore Diabetic Nerve Pain

Fact: About 50% of people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage known as diabetic neuropathy

Fact: 64% of Diabetic Nerve Pain sufferers report that their pain interferes with the daily activities that matter to them

Fact: 71% of Diabetic Nerve Pain sufferers say their pain interferes with the daily activities and makes it hard for them to fall asleep

Fact: 49% of diabetics had not had a discussion with their doctor about Diabetic Nerve Pain or its symptoms in the last 12 months, according to one survey

Fact: 65% of Diabetic Nerve Pain sufferers say the pain decreases their general motivation

Does Diabetic Nerve Pain get in the way of doing things that you like to do or need to do? Do you find it difficult to work, care for your family, travel, and enjoy hobbies? For many people with Diabetic Nerve Pain, the answer is yes.

When a person has pain that is caused by nerve damage from diabetes, it is simply called Diabetic Nerve Pain or, to use the medical term, painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (pDPN). Approximately 26% of patients with diabetes have pDPN.

The most common cause of Diabetic Nerve Pain is poorly controlled blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar levels can result in nerve damage. Controlled blood sugar levels may help prevent, stabilize, and delay further nerve damage.

The most common type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy (burning, throbbing, or painful tingling in your hands or feet). In the early stages of peripheral neuropathy, some people have no signs. Some may have numbness or tingling in the feet. Because nerve damage can occur over several years, these cases may go unnoticed. The patient may only become aware of neuropathy if the nerve damage gets worse and becomes painful.

Most diabetic neuropathy is caused by peripheral artery disease, in which the small blood vessels are obstructed or partially obstructed and cannot carry oxygenated blood to areas of the body. These areas have pain or other difficulties due to the lack of oxygen.

Diabetic Nerve Pain may make it hard to do what is needed to manage your diabetes. It can create a cycle where one problem just leads to another problem, which makes the first problem even worse.

  • Pain may make it difficult to stay physically active and focus on other areas of diabetes care
  • If you are not physically active and focusing on diabetes care, it may be hard to keep your blood sugar levels close to the normal range
  • In turn, if your blood sugar levels are raised for long periods of time (many months or years), you may be more likely to develop more health problems. This may include more nerve damage
  • Finally, people with Diabetic Nerve Pain also have more risk for symptoms of depression, which can further lower the drive to focus on the day-to-day parts of good diabetes care

Nerve pain is different from other types of pain, like pain from a muscle ache or sprained ankle. Common pain medicines like aspirin may not work for nerve pain. Nerve pain is unique and feels different than muscle pain. Since all pain is not the same and nerve pain treatment is different from muscle pain treatment, it’s important to understand the source of your pain.

Muscle pain is a “protective” form of pain which sends a warning signal that an injury occurred. The pain tells you that more activity might be harmful. Nerve pain, on the other hand, is a “non-protective” form of pain which will not necessarily be improved by changing or limiting your activities.

In fact, with Diabetic Nerve Pain, decreasing your activity level is a problem, making it harder to manage your diabetes. (We all know it’s important to be physically active to keep your blood sugar level under control.) With nerve pain, your nerves repeatedly send extra electrical signals to the brain. These extra signals can cause pain when you do something that is not normally painful, e.g. putting on shoes. If this pain is not properly diagnosed and treated, it can cause difficulties with walking, working, or even being in social situations.

Over time, elevated blood sugar levels could potentially lead to different diabetes complications, like kidney and eye (retinopathy) conditions besides leading to nerve damage, especially in the feet. Therefore annual foot exams are crucial to check for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Indeed, regular examinations are important because a diabetes patient can have peripheral neuropathy without pain, especially in the early stages of the neuropathy.

Many Diabetic Nerve Pain sufferers try to ignore the symptoms. They may not tell their doctors right away. Or even if they do bring up their pain, the discussion can easily veer toward other important aspects of diabetes management—such as blood sugar control. The sufferer may not get around to asking about pain relief.

Unfortunately, nerve pain can be one of the most intense pains that people feel. Diabetic Nerve Pain can make normal daily activities more difficult.

It is therefore important to discuss ways to reduce your pain at your next doctor’s visit. You may have many topics you want to discuss with your doctor. This list probably includes the very important issue of your blood sugar level control and it may be tempting to put your pain at the bottom of your list. Not a good idea. Avoiding the subject doesn’t make this common complication go away. Indeed, even if your pain seems just bothersome now, the nerve damage can get worse over time.

To be sure, Diabetic Nerve Pain care is an important part of overall diabetes care. And it is a part you may be able to actively improve. With less pain, you’ll feel better and may even increase your physical activity level. This is a key component of good diabetes care.

If you have Diabetic Nerve Pain, it’s very important to keep your blood sugar levels as close to the normal range as possible. This may help stabilize and prevent further nerve damage. It’s also important to keep your pain under control. Then you may be able to return to activities that are important to you.


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  • […] When he first saw the nerves, Efron, who has type 2 diabetes, knew at once that what he was seeing was something unique. One of the serious consequences of the disease is diabetic neuropathy – a condition that causes nerve damage and can result in ulcers and amputations ‒ that affects about half of diabetics in varying degrees of severity, which causes the degeneration of nerves, mostly in the arms and leg. (See my post ‘Don’t Ignore Diabetic Nerve Pain’ here.) […]

  • […] When he first saw the nerves, Efron, who has type 2 diabetes, knew at once that what he was seeing was something unique. One of the serious consequences of the disease is diabetic neuropathy – a condition that causes nerve damage and can result in ulcers and amputations ‒ that affects about half of diabetics in varying degrees of severity, which causes the degeneration of nerves, mostly in the arms and leg. (See my post ‘Don’t Ignore Diabetic Nerve Pain’ here.) […]

  • […] Diabetic neuropathy is categorized as autonomic and peripheral diabetic neuropathy, depending on which particular nervous system it affects. The third category, focal diabetic neuropathy, affects individual nerves, not a system. (See my earlier related post ‘Don’t Ignore Diabetic Nerve Pain’ here.) […]

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