Diabetic Neuropathy: Best Treatment Options For Pain
Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD
Staying on top of your diabetes is a lifelong undertaking. If you are like many people with diabetes, that means taking medication or insulin shots, making sure your diet is appropriate, and working physical activity into your daily routine. For people who may have the added challenge of dealing with diabetic neuropathy, this is one more piece of the condition to be aware of and to do what you can to stay on top of it.
How Is Diabetic Neuropathy Treatment Determined?
The type of treatment you receive will depend largely on the type of neuropathy you have and the symptoms you are currently experiencing. Treatment is often focused on reducing your symptoms and preventing your condition from becoming worse. Maintaining your blood sugar levels in an acceptable range is key, so that you minimize your risk for additional nerve damage.
Good foot care is usually emphasized, meaning you and your doctor have to keep an eye on your feet with regular inspection and examinations to make sure there are no signs of cracking, early infection, or other problems. Pain as part of peripheral neuropathy occurs in a small percentage of people, however when it occurs it is no small matter. Once the doctor establishes that pain is from diabetic peripheral neuropathy, there are a number of treatments that may be used. These include topical creams or pain relievers as well as prescription antidepressants and other drugs that act on the nervous system and have been shown to improve painful diabetic neuropathy.
Autonomic Neuropathy involves the nerves that are responsible for regulating many of the body's internal functions, which include things like digestion, urination, sweating, sexual function, and blood pressure control—and much, much more. Symptoms of neuropathy in these nerves, therefore, may be varied and include constipation, diarrhea, digestive problems, abnormal sweating, sexual dysfunction, and urinary problems. In some cases, this kind of neuropathy can make the diabetes more challenging to control because glucose levels and your body’s response to glucose levels may be affected.
Diabetic Neuropathy Treatments:
Treatments are geared toward the specific nerves involved. When the neuropathy increases the risk of foot infections, as with many cases of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, foot care becomes very important.
In addition managing painful diabetic neuropathies, differing treatments are often tailored to the specific type of neuropathy you are experiencing. In the case of neuropathy that affects the cardiovascular system, your doctor might assess your heart to make sure you are healthy enough to improve your overall cardiovascular fitness, as this has been shown to improve cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy. There are also steps that can be taken if you are dizzy from getting up too quickly. Sometimes there is an aggravating drug that can be discontinued, for instance.
Diabetic neuropathy can put you at a higher risk of foot infections, and more severe measures may be required to prevent a life-threatening infection, once a serious infection of the lower extremity takes hold. Surgery and in some cases amputation may be required to keep the infection from spreading.
Whether your treatment is for pain or some other aspect of diabetic neuropathy, make sure that you understand the goals of whatever therapy it is that you are considering, along with the limitations of such treatment. In your discussions with your doctor, it is a good idea to try to get a better sense for which aspects of your neuropathy might improve with treatment, and which are less likely to do so.
The best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy—and to avoid additional damage, going forward—is to keep your blood sugar levels well controlled and live a healthy lifestyle.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.