Diabetic Neuropathy Relief
Control Pain Caused by Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes mellitus can cause a number of complications, but diabetic neuropathy is among the most serious of them. Because diabetics have problems regulating their blood sugar levels, they are at greatly increased risk for nerve damage. Consistently high blood sugar can permanently damage nerve fibers anywhere in your body, but diabetic neuropathy most often causes pain symptoms in the legs and feet. There is no known cure.
In addition to pain, diabetic neuropathy can cause other symptoms, including:
- Urinary incontinence and/or frequent urinary tract infections
- Constipation and/or intense diarrhea; patients may alternate back and forth between the two
- Sexual dysfunction (erectile dysfunction in men, vaginal dryness or painful intercourse in women, low testosterone AKA low t)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Unregulated blood pressure
- Body temperature fluctuations
- Elevated heart rate while at rest
Without management, diabetic neuropathy can be fatal. If you experience these symptoms, report them to your doctor right away.
Presentation of Diabetic Neuropathy Pain
The pain associated with diabetic neuropathy tends to follow a similar pattern from patient to patient. Commonly reported pain symptoms include:
- Tingling, burning or numbness in affected areas or extremities
- Diminished ability to sense changes in temperature in affected areas or extremities
- Ambulatory pain
- Extreme sensitivity to pain
- Sudden, sharp pain which tends to flare up at night
- Problems walking
- Muscle weakness
- Foot ulcers, bunions, and/or infections
Rarer Types of Diabetic Neuropathy
While most people with diabetic neuropathy experience symptoms in their legs and feet, some people experience pain centered on the hips, thighs and buttocks. This condition is known as radiculoplexis neuropathy or diabetic amyotrophy. It can cause rapid weight loss, swelling and muscle atrophies in addition to pain symptoms.
Another type of diabetic neuropathy is known as mononeuropathy. As the name implies, people with this condition have suffered irreparable damage to a single, specific nerve. Affected nerves are usually located in the legs, trunk, or face. Symptoms include localized pain, and in the case of facial mononeuropathy, patients may experience partial facial paralysis, vision problems and/or eye pain.
Treating Diabetic Neuropathy Pain
As this condition cannot be cured, the treatment of diabetic neuropathy focuses on three pillars:
- Relieving pain
- Restoring lost bodily function
- Slowing down the progression of the nerve damage
Pain symptoms are typically addressed with the following treatments:
- Topical anesthetics. Your doctor may prescribe a lidocaine patch, which delivers a continual dose of anesthetic to affected areas to numb the pain.
- Opioid analgesics. These powerful painkillers may be used to reduce your body's perception and awareness of the pain. Tramadol and oxycodone are the two most commonly prescribed opioids for diabetic neuropathy, but both come with significant side effects. You should be aware of the risks associated with long-term use of these drugs and make a decision based on your doctor's advice and your own best judgment.
- Anti-seizure drugs. Some of the drugs used to treat epilepsy are also very effective agents for reducing nerve pain, as they have a calming effect on the body. Gabapentin and carbamazepine are two widely used examples of anti-seizure medications that can treat diabetic neuropathy pain.
- Antidepressants. Certain classes of antidepressants, including tricyclic antidepressants as well as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), can be effective in the management of diabetic neuropathy pain. Because patients suffering from chronic pain are also at heightened risk for developing clinical depression and other mood disorders, this can also serve as a preemptive treatment to guard against that possibility.
You and your doctor should decide upon the best diabetes treatment guidelines for the additional neuropathy relief. You will also need to pay extra attention to your diabetes diet and monitor your blood sugar levels, take good care of your feet, and carefully treat any foot wounds you may develop. Avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking also improve the long-term prognosis of diabetic neuropathy.