Nerve damage (neuropathy)

Neuropathy refers to nerve damage that happens as a result of having diabetes. About half of people with diabetes will have some form of nerve damage. If you’ve had the disease for many years, you are more likely to be affected. One way to prevent or delay nerve damage is to keep your blood sugar levels within the appropriate range set by your doctor.

Peripheral neuropathy

If you have any of the symptoms below, you may have peripheral neuropathy:

  • Tingling (“pins and needles” feeling)
  • Pain and increased sensitivity
  • Numbness or weakness
  • Open sores on your feet and legs
  • Feeling like the muscles and bones may have changed shape

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider and ask them to take a look at your feet at each office visit. Make sure you have a complete foot exam at last once a year. If you already have some foot problems, you should have your feet checked more often. Follow the steps for regular self-check of your feet

Autonomic neuropathy

This type of nerve damage affects the nerves that control your body systems. Some of the systems affected include:

  • Digestive system
  • Urinary tract (bladder)
  • Sex organs
  • Heart and blood vessels
  • Sweat glands
  • Eyes

A common symptom is paralysis of the bladder, which can lead to urinary tract infections. It can also cause erectile dysfunction when it affects the nerves that control erection with sexual arousal.

In some cases, it can affect your stomach and cause gastroparesis. In those cases, the stomach loses the ability to move food through the digestive system, causing vomiting and bloating. It can also change how fast your body absorbs the food you eat and can make it difficult to match insulin doses to food portions.

Talk to your doctor at your next appointment about any concerns you may have about your digestive system, your urinary tract, sex organs, blood vessels, heart, sweat glands and eyes.

Other types of neuropathy (nerve damage)

  • Charcot’s Joint – This type of neuropathy most often happens in the foot and causes loss of most sensations. It can also make the foot unstable and walking makes it worse. If you already have nerve damage, you are most at risk for Charcot’s Joint. Look out for symptoms such as swelling, redness, heat, strong pulse and insensitivity of the foot and see your doctor if you have any concerns.
  • Cranial neuropathy – This type of nerve damage affects the nerves that control sight, eye movement, hearing and taste. It most often affects the nerves that control the eye muscles and results in pain on one side of the face near the affected eye. The eye muscle may become paralyzed and cause in double vision.
  • Compression mononeuropathy – This happens when a single nerve is damages. Symptoms include numbness, swelling, pricking in the fingers with or without pain when driving a car, knitting or resting at night.
  • Femoral neuropathy – This is most common in people with Type 2 diabetes. It can start as pain in front of one thigh that is followed by muscle weakness and the affected muscles waste away.
  • Focal neuropathy – This causes sudden weakness or pain. This can cause double vision, pain in the thigh or other parts of the body, or paralysis on one side of the face (Bell’s palsy).
  • Thoracic/Lumbar radiculopathy – This affects a muscle of the chest or abdominal wall. It occurs more often in people with Type 2 diabetes. People with this type get better over time.
  • Unilateral foot drop – This happens when there is damage to the peroneal nerve of the leg by compression or vessel disease. When this happens, the foot cannot be picked up. People with this get better over time.