Diabetic Neuropathy Treatment

When you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you can be at risk for a type of nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. This damage is caused by long-term elevated blood sugar levels and usually develops slowly, over the course of years or even decades. Most often, the effects of this nerve damage will be apparent in the legs and feet, though this is not always the case.

Early indicators of diabetic neuropathy are numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in the feet or hands. If you are experiencing these, seeing a doctor quickly can help you prevent the problem from worsening by providing diabetic neuropathy treatment. While the numbness and tingling are common early signs, they can be accompanied by other problems with the digestive system, heart, blood vessels, or urinary tract. Some people experience these issues mildly, but for others, they can be painful and debilitating, and worsening symptoms lead to an eventual loss of feeling in the hands or feet. Prolonged cases can leave you susceptible to infections and injuries, increasing the risk of amputation becoming necessary.

Between the four types of the condition, diabetic neuropathy may impact as many as 50% of people with diabetes and should be taken seriously. However, you can usually prevent the occurrence or slow its development by managing sugars and otherwise leading a healthy lifestyle in conjunction with the proper diabetic neuropathy treatment.

Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

There are four unique types of diabetic neuropathy, though you can have multiple types at the same time. Neuropathy treatment and symptoms may vary depending on which of the neuropathy types you are suffering from and which nerves are being impacted by the condition.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Also known as distal symmetric peripheral neuropathy, this form is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy. It will usually begin by impacting the legs and feet before moving to the arms and hands. Symptoms may include the traditional feelings of numbness, tingling, or burning sensations and eventually become an inability to feel pain or temperature in the extremity. Sharp pain and cramps, sensitivity to touch, and ulcers on the feet can also be common. Many people report symptoms worsening at night.

Autonomic Neuropathy

When the affected nerves are part of the autonomic nervous system, it can begin to affect your heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs, or eyes. If this happens, symptoms will often include trouble regulating normal processes in the body, including bowel and bladder problems. It can also lead to gastroparesis, in which trouble emptying the stomach causes nausea and vomiting. Those suffering from autonomic neuropathy may also have trouble adjusting from light to dark spaces, lack sexual responsiveness, and not realize that their blood sugars are low using the same cues they would have previously.

Proximal Neuropathy

This form of neuropathy can also be known as diabetic polyradiculopathy or diabetic amyotrophy and primarily impacts nerves in the hips, thighs, buttocks, and legs, though it sometimes also impacts the chest and abdomen. The most common marker of this type of neuropathy is that symptoms begin on one side of the body and may or may not spread to the other side over time. These symptoms include severe pain in the hip or thigh, weak and shrinking muscles, trouble rising after being seated, and severe stomach pains.


Referring to damage in a specific nerve, mononeuropathy can be either cranial or peripheral depending on which nerve is impacted. Based on this, it can lead to problems like double vision, aching behind an eye, or difficulty focusing your vision. Mononeuropathy is also what can cause paralysis on one side of the face known as Bell’s palsy, a numbness and tingling in the hand excluding the pinkie finger, or a weakness in the hand that causes you to drop items frequently.

All forms of diabetic neuropathy are serious and should be treated by a doctor as soon as symptoms become apparent.

Causes of Diabetic Neuropathy

While the exact cause of each form of neuropathy is not known, it is believed that high blood sugar over time damages nerves and prevents them from sending signals properly and resulting in the symptoms mentioned above. This is in part because high level of blood glucose can weaken the walls of small blood vessels, which supply the nerves with oxygen and nutrients they rely on to function.

Anybody with diabetes can potentially develop diabetic neuropathy, but there are a number of risk factors that make someone more likely to suffer nerve damage. A diabetic’s history is a large factor, as the risk of diabetic neuropathy increases the longer a person has had diabetes. This is especially true if their blood sugar is not well controlled, which increases the risk for not only nerve damage, but all other diabetes complications as well.

Diabetes can also cause damage to the kidneys, which allows toxins to be released into the blood. This can lead to nerve damage, making kidney disease a risk factor. Being overweight, defined as a body mass index of 25 or higher, also increases risk. Smoking can also narrow and harden your arteries, reducing your blood flow in the legs and feet and ultimately causing damage to the peripheral nerves. Any of these factors should be considered when diagnosing the condition.

Preventing Diabetic Neuropathy

The best thing a person with diabetes can do is prevent neuropathy from developing in the first place, but even if some nerve damage has occurred, you can prevent it from becoming worse over time.

One of the most effective ways to prevent diabetic neuropathy from developing is to properly manage your blood sugar levels. It’s recommended by the American Diabetes Association that people with diabetes have their A1C levels checked at least twice a year in order to determine average blood sugar levels. A1C goals will be personal for each patient, but 7% or less is recommended. When blood sugar levels exceed your goals, it may be time for shifts to daily management, diet adjustments, or medication changes.

Another way to be proactive is to take care of your feet. An annual foot exam from your doctor and diligent home care can protect the health of your feet in the long term. Each day, you can check your feet for any markings or changes to the skin to determine if they appear to be different or shifting in some way. It is also important to keep your feet clean, dry, and moisturized, along with wearing clean socks and cushioned, well-fitting shoes. All of these can help prevent corns, calluses, fungal growth, and other problems with the feet.

Treating Diabetic Neuropathy

While there is no known cure, proper diabetic neuropathy treatment can help slow the progression of the illness, as well as manage pain and complications moving forward. Often it is possible to restore some of the function that has been lost as a result of nerve damage. This can help avoid more serious measures like surgery or eventual amputation of the hands or feet.

At Fox Integrated Health, we take time to evaluate each individual case of neuropathy, identifying the affected nerves, underlying cause, and severity of the condition. This allows us to create a customized plan, combining the right non-invasive medical treatments for each patient. These plans can include laser or physical therapy, electrostimulation, massage, chiropractic care, inflammation injections, and consultations on nutrition. Our goal is to help patients avoid the use of medications as much as possible, instead focusing on healing the root cause of neuropathy wherever possible. Contact us today.