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The basics of diabetic neuropathy

Individuals with diabetes -- up to 70 percent -- suffer from some level of nerve damage. This damage is known as diabetic neuropathy. Neuropathy is most common among individuals who have trouble controlling their blood sugar, those who have dealt with diabetes for over 25 years, those with high blood pressure and those who are overweight.

Types of diabetic neuropathy

The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy vary depending on the degree of nerve damage or the type of neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is the most common and causes pain in the toes, feet, legs, hands and arms. Focal and proximal neuropathy can both cause muscle weakness in other parts of the body. Autonomic neuropathy causes problems with digestion, sexual response and bladder function, as well as changes in the nerves of the lungs and eyes.

Slowing down diabetic neuropathy

However, it is possible to slow down the damage. Here are ten ways to slow down the progression of nerve damage:

  1. Control your blood sugar levels
  2. Control your blood pressure
  3. Eat healthy foods
  4. Exercise regularly
  5. Reach and maintain a healthy weight
  6. Do not smoke
  7. Do not drink alcohol
  8. Take care of your feet
  9. Take your medication exactly as prescribed
  10. Educate yourself so you can recognize the symptoms

Treating diabetic neuropathy

Currently, no cure exists, but there are ways to treat the symptoms. The following tips might help you keep the pain under control:

  1. Control your blood sugar levels. Keeping your blood sugar within a normal range can help prevent neuropathy from developing in the first place. If you already have nerve damage, good blood sugar levels may help alleviate the pain.
  2. Use oral medications. Your doctor might prescribe oral medications. Sometimes over the counter drugs can work for treating mild pain. Some antidepressants and anti-seizure medications have also shown promise in treating more advanced diabetic neuropathy.
  3. Consider diabetic creams. Diabetic creams meant to lessen pain can be are available over the counter or by prescription. The active ingredients in these medications include capsaicin and Lidocaine, both proven to relieve pain.

Other treatments, such as biofeedback, acupuncture, and hypnosis have been found to work for some individuals.  Additionally, there are a few practical ways to handle the pain of diabetic neuropathy.

  1. Choose the proper socks and cushioning footwear for your feet.
  2. Try to keep your hands and feet -- usually the first victims of neuropathy -- as warm as the rest of your body.
  3. Try out lotions and creams that promise to treat nerve damage and when you land on one that works, use it frequently.

A final word about nerve damage

Obviously, day-to-day life can be difficult when you suffer from nerve damage. If you begin to feel depressed about your medical situation, speak with your physician. With the right combination of medication and emotional support, you can learn to control the pain and symptoms.

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