Diabetic neuropathy


Diabetic neuropathy is damage to nerves in the body that occurs due to high blood sugar levels from diabetes.

Alternative Names

Nerve damage - diabetic; Diabetes - neuropathy


Nerve injuries are caused by decreased blood flow and high blood sugar levels. They are more likely to develop if blood sugar levels are not well controlled.

About half of people with diabetes will develop nerve damage. Most of the time symptoms do not begin until 10 to 20 years after diabetes has been diagnosed.

Nerve injuries may affect:


Symptoms often develop slowly over several years. Which symptoms you have depend on the nerves that are affected.

People with diabetes may have trouble digesting food. This can make your diabetes harder to control. Symptoms of digestion problems include:

Tingling or burning in the arms and legs may be an early sign of nerve damage.

Nerve damage may cause you to lose feeling in your arms and legs. Because of this you may:

Damage to nerves in your heart and blood vessels may cause you to:

Other symptoms of nerve damage are:

Exams and Tests

A physical exam may show:

Tests that may be done include:


It is very important to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range. Doing so may prevent nerve damage or make symptoms less severe.

You should learn the basic steps for managing your diabetes, avoiding its complications, and staying as healthy as possible. These steps will include diet, exercise, and sometimes medicines.

You need to check your blood sugar regularly. Your doctor will help you by taking blood tests and other tests.

A number of medications may be used to reduce painful symptoms in the feet, legs, and arms:

Treatments for nausea and vomiting may include:

Diarrhea, constipation, bladder problems, and other symptoms are treated as needed.

Drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis) may be used to treat impotence. Discuss these medicines with your doctor before taking them.

To keep your feet healthy with diabetes, you should:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Treatment relieves pain and can control some symptoms, but the disease generally continues to get worse.

Other problems that may develop:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you develop any symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.


Bril V, England J, Franklin GM, Backonja M, Cohen J, Del Toro D, et al. Evidence-based guideline: Treatment of painful diabetic neuropathy: report of the American Academy of Neurology, the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine, and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Neurology. 2011;76(20):1758-1765.

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes--2012. Diabetes Care. 2012 Jan;35 Suppl 1:S11-63.

Review Date: 6/27/2012
Reviewed By: Shehzad Topiwala, MD, Chief Consultant Endocrinologist, Premier Medical Associates, The Villages, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.