Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD

When you are first diagnosed with diabetic nerve pain, you may feel nervous and a little overwhelmed. Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage, is often recognized when symptoms arise, such as pins-and-needles sensations in the hands and feet. Numbness and tingling are fairly common symptoms, however a smaller percentage of people may also have significant pain to deal with pain, typically described as burning pain. If you have diabetes and suffer from pain in your feet, or perhaps in both your hands and your feet, it’s possible your symptoms are from diabetic nerve pain.

Diabetic Nerve Pain Impact:

There are many different types of neuropathy associated with diabetes and the most common form is known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which often begins with the feet and toes. There are a number of different factors that are believed to be important in causing diabetic neuropathies, and having uncontrolled, elevated blood sugar is one key factor.

When the nerve damage results in pain, it can make simple activities such as walking or even sleeping, incredibly uncomfortable. Although neuropathy can sometimes arise very early in someone with diabetes, the risk of developing nerve damage with symptoms such as pain grows with age and with years of exposure to high levels of blood glucose. As a peripheral nerve disorder, this form of nerve pain damages the nerves from the spinal cord out to the trunk and limbs of the body. Usually, it impacts the longest nerves first, including those that extend to the feet.

Sometimes, mild cases of this form of nerve pain can go unnoticed for years, but more severe forms can cause serious pain and other symptoms that have an impact on the individual's daily life. In people with diabetes, peripheral neuropathy often goes along with damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish and protect the tissues in the feet, and that is one of the reasons why diabetic foot care is so important in people with peripheral neuropathy. Serious infections that may start in the feet or toes may lead to the need for amputation.

Areas of the Body That Are Most Affected:

The parts of the body that tend to be affected most by diabetic peripheral neuropathy include the feet and legs. Nerve damage that takes place within the feet can also lead to a lack of sensation. Because of the lack of sensation, seemingly minor sores that usually prompt people to take extra care may go unnoticed, leading to more severe infections. So it is important to practice good foot care and skincare routines.

Other Implications:

For people who experience pain from their diabetic neuropathy, this is one of the biggest predictors that depression may eventually be a problem. So talk to your doctor about the symptoms in your feet, but don’t forget about other, related symptoms you may be having. It is also important to note that you may have more than one type of neuropathy at the same time. For instance, neuropathy that involves the autonomic nervous system can lead to a different set of symptoms such as bladder and sexual dysfunction, digestive problems, dizziness when getting up too quickly and an intolerance to exercise.