Managing Diabetic Nerve Pain

Diabetic nerve pain, or neuropathy, occurs when high blood sugar leads to damage in the nerves that send signals from your hands and feet. Symptoms include numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, or can be more severe, with burning or sharp pain that can be very painful.

Up to 50 percent of diabetics have some diabetic nerve pain. It can affect sleep, decrease quality of life and even lead to depression.

While nerves can't be replaced, diabetics can take measure to prevent further damage and manage the pain.

Prevention

If you're a diabetic, and you don't have neuropathy, that's great! If you do, you want to prevent further damage. Either way, the best advice for prevention is to control your blood sugar. That's the name of the game for diabetics, because high blood sugar is what causes so many issues.

Talk with your doctor about setting a blood sugar goal, and monitor it closely. A good rule of thumb is to work toward a blood sugar level of 80 to 130 milligrams per deciliter before meals and less than 180 milligrams per deciliter after meals. Total Diabetes Supply can help with all your monitoring needs.

Use diet and exercise to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range. Minimize other health risks that can worsen diabetes, like smoking and obesity.

Treatment

If you already have diabetic neuropathy, talk with your doctor about ways to manage the pain. Here are some options:

  • Pain medications. Your doctor may recommend and over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control your symptoms. If the pain is severe, he or she may prescribe stronger medications. Oxycodone and other strong drugs are effective in treating pain but are not meant for long-term use. Lidocaine patches may also be prescribed. They deliver a local antiseptic through a patch placed on the skin.
  • Antidepressants. While antidepressants are used to treat depression, they can often help with diabetic nerve pain because they interfere with chemicals in the brain that cause people to feel pain. There are a number of drugs available on the market, so speak with your doctor about the options and the side effects.
  • Anti-seizure drugs. These types of medications can be effective in treating pain and improving sleep. They do can, however, cause drowsiness, swelling and dizziness.
  • Physical therapy. Certain types of physical exercise, like swimming, may soothe neuropathy. A good physical therapist can help you determine what's best for you.
  • Capsaicin cream.  This type of cream, derived from ingredients found in hot peppers, may temporarily soothe diabetic nerve pain. It's available in lotion, jelly or patch form, and is applied directly to the skin where the nerve pain occurs. Use with caution, as some people experience allergic reactions to capsaicin. Speak with your doctor about what's right for you.
  • Nerve stimulation. This type of treatment can help with severe pain. Electrodes are applied to the skin or placed along the spinal cord to make nerve pain more tolerable, changing the way the brain senses pain.

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