« Back to Glossary Index

Living with diabetes can lead to various complications, and one of the common ones is diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). DPN refers to nerve damage that occurs in the peripheral nerves, most commonly affecting the feet and legs. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options available for diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Definition of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that occurs in individuals with diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the nerves, especially in the extremities such as the feet and legs. This damage can result in various symptoms and complications.

Causes and Risk Factors

The primary cause of diabetic peripheral neuropathy is prolonged exposure to high blood sugar levels. However, other factors can contribute to its development, including:

  1. Poorly managed diabetes: Individuals who struggle to control their blood sugar levels are at a higher risk of developing DPN.
  2. Duration of diabetes: The longer an individual has diabetes, the higher the likelihood of developing neuropathy.
  3. Smoking: Smoking can impair blood flow to the nerves, increasing the risk of nerve damage.
  4. Obesity: Excess weight can put additional pressure on the nerves, increasing the chances of developing DPN.
  5. Genetic factors: Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to developing neuropathy.

Symptoms of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

The symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy can vary from person to person. Common symptoms include:

H1 Heading: Sensory Symptoms

  • Tingling or numbness in the feet or hands.
  • Loss of sensation or a “pins and needles” sensation.
  • Heightened sensitivity to touch.
  • Burning or shooting pains.

H1 Heading: Motor Symptoms

  • Muscle weakness or loss of coordination.
  • Difficulty walking or performing tasks that require fine motor skills.

H1 Heading: Autonomic Symptoms

  • Changes in blood pressure.
  • Problems with digestion.
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Sweating abnormalities.

Diagnosis and Assessment

To diagnose diabetic peripheral neuropathy, healthcare professionals consider a combination of medical history, physical examination, and various tests, including:

  1. Nerve conduction studies: These tests measure the electrical impulses in the nerves to assess nerve function.
  2. Electromyography (EMG): EMG measures the electrical activity in muscles, helping determine the extent of nerve damage.
  3. Blood tests: Blood tests may be conducted to check for vitamin deficiencies, thyroid issues, and other conditions that can mimic neuropathy symptoms.

Treatment Options

Managing diabetic peripheral neuropathy involves a multi-faceted approach, including:

H2 Heading: Medications for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

  • Pain medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications may be recommended to manage pain associated with DPN.
  • Antidepressants and anticonvulsants: Certain medications used to treat depression and seizures can also help alleviate neuropathic pain.
  • Topical treatments: Creams, gels, or patches containing capsaicin or lidocaine may provide temporary relief.

H2 Heading: Lifestyle Changes and Self-Care

  • Blood sugar management: Keeping blood sugar levels within a target range is crucial in preventing further nerve damage.
  • Foot care: Regularly examining the feet for any cuts, sores, or infections is essential to prevent complications.
  • Regular exercise: Engaging in physical activity can improve circulation and promote overall nerve health.

H2 Heading: Alternative Therapies

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): TENS uses low-voltage electrical currents to relieve pain and stimulate nerve function.
  • Acupuncture: This ancient practice involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to alleviate pain and improve nerve function.
  • Massage therapy: Gentle massage techniques can help improve circulation and reduce pain.

Preventing Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

While it may not be possible to prevent all cases of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, certain measures can lower the risk or delay its onset. These include:

  • Consistently managing blood sugar levels.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Regular exercise and physical activity.

Managing Complications

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy can lead to various complications, such as foot ulcers, infections, and amputation. To manage these complications, it is crucial to:

  • Maintain good foot hygiene and regularly inspect the feet.
  • Wear proper footwear to protect the feet.
  • Seek prompt medical attention for any signs of infection or injury.
  • Follow the healthcare provider’s recommendations for managing blood sugar levels.

Importance of Regular Monitoring

Individuals with diabetic peripheral neuropathy should undergo regular check-ups and screenings to monitor the progression of the condition and manage any complications. Regular monitoring can help detect changes in nerve function, assess the effectiveness of treatment, and make necessary adjustments.

Support and Resources

Living with diabetic peripheral neuropathy can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. Seeking support from healthcare professionals, support groups, and online communities can provide valuable information, advice, and emotional support for individuals and their families.


Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options, individuals with diabetes can take proactive steps to manage and minimize the effects of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. It is important to work closely with healthcare professionals, follow recommended lifestyle changes, and seek support when needed.


Q1: Can diabetic peripheral neuropathy be cured completely? A1: Diabetic peripheral neuropathy cannot be cured completely, but its progression can be slowed or managed effectively through various treatment approaches.

Q2: Are there any home remedies for relieving the symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy? A2: While there is no specific home remedy to cure diabetic peripheral neuropathy, managing blood sugar levels, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and practicing good foot care can help alleviate symptoms.

Q3: Can physical therapy help with diabetic peripheral neuropathy? A3: Yes, physical therapy can be beneficial for individuals with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. It can help improve balance, strength, and overall mobility.

Q4: How long does it take to see improvements in symptoms with diabetic peripheral neuropathy treatment? A4: The timeline for improvement in symptoms varies for each individual. Some may experience relief within a few weeks, while others may take longer. Consistency with treatment and following healthcare provider’s recommendations is key.

Q5: Is diabetic peripheral neuropathy preventable? A5: While it may not be entirely preventable, adopting a healthy lifestyle, managing blood sugar levels, and following the recommendations of healthcare professionals can significantly lower the risk of developing diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

« Back to Glossary Index