Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD

Diabetic neuropathy, which is the cause of diabetic nerve pain, is essentially damage to certain nerves as a result of diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy can cause many different symptoms. Pain, numbness, and tingling are very typical symptoms. However, some people start to develop diabetic neuropathy and seem to have none of these symptoms.

Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic neuropathy at any time. Typically, however, it develops over a period of time after you have been diagnosed with diabetes, and it may be some time before any symptoms are noticeable. The highest rates of diabetic neuropathy occur in people who have suffered from diabetes for 25 years or longer. Both people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can have diabetic nerve pain. The precise cause of the problem is not yet fully understood, though exposure to high blood glucose levels over time is thought to be a key factor.

Manage The Symptoms:

There is no cure for diabetic neuropathy, but there are many different options to manage the symptoms. Good blood sugar control is key to reducing the chances of further nerve damage. Good diabetic foot care is also essential when you have peripheral neuropathy, a common type of diabetic neuropathy. To manage painful diabetic neuropathies, topical and oral medications are often used, including over the counter preparations as well as prescription agents.

Over the Counter Options:

Over-the-counter nonsteroidal pain medications are often used to address mild pain. Ibuprofen is a common over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication used for this purpose. Topical capsaicin creams are also available in drug stores; however, people who suffer from more chronic and upsetting pain may not find relief with these agents and may need to consult with their doctor about more effective therapies.

Prescription Medications:

In terms of pain management, pain caused by the damaged nerves is often difficult to control, but there are quite a few different options available. These can include oral medications such as antidepressants, certain anticonvulsants, and even a number of topical treatments. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a non-invasive intervention used for pain relief, and a number of studies have described its use for neuropathic pain. TENS has been shown in some studies to improve peripheral neuropathy symptoms associated with diabetes.