Neuropathy

Neuropathy: Main Image

Related Topics

  1. Type 2 Diabetes
  2. Type 1 Diabetes
  3. Diabetes Health Center

About This Condition

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you are at increased risk for developing nerve damage, or neuropathy. There are many types of neuropathy, but the good news is that smart lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of neuropathy, and help manage the condition if you already have it.1, 2

Certain chemotherapy medications that are used to treat cancer also may cause temporary or permanent neuropathy, most commonly affecting the feet or hands. You can work with your doctor to take steps to reduce the risk of developing chemotherapy-related neuropathy, and to manage the condition if you already have it.3, 4

Symptoms

Neuropathy can have many symptoms. The symptoms experienced will depend upon which nerves are affected, or damaged. Symptoms may include tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the feet, legs, and hands; delayed stomach emptying (gastroparesis), diarrhea, or constipation; bladder paralysis and urine retention; erectile dysfunction in men and vaginal dryness or lack of arousal in women; fainting, dizziness, or rapid heart rate; blurry vision, or difficulty with vision, such as the eyes not adjusting well to changing light conditions. For people receiving chemotherapy medications, the most common neuropathy symptoms include tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the feet, legs, and hands.5, 6

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

For people with type 2 diabetes, regular, moderate physical activity can improve and maintain health by fostering a healthy body weight and better blood sugar control. If you already have neuropathy, choose gentle activities that don’t worsen pain in hands and feet, such as swimming, water aerobics, or biking. If you are new to exercising, consult your health care provider for guidance on getting started.

While many people with type 1 diabetes can benefit from regular, moderate exercise, physical activity can lead to low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). If you have type 1 diabetes, never begin an intensive exercise program without consulting a healthcare professional first.

Always wear activity-appropriate, well-fitting foot wear, and comfortable, moisture-wicking socks. Place special focus on keeping your feet clean and dry. Be sure to wash and dry between your toes carefully. Monitor the condition of your feet regularly, and notify your health care provider about calluses, blisters or red, swollen, and inflamed areas that do not heal. Ask a spouse, partner, or home health care provider to help you with areas you can’t see, such as the bottom of your feet.

Some physical activities are not safe for people with neuropathy. These activities may cause injury or tissue damage that people with existing neuropathy may not feel or notice. This can lead to more serious problems. Consult with a qualified health care provider, such as a diabetes clinical exercise expert for guidance.7

Smokers are also more likely to develop diabetes. In addition, people with diabetes who smoke are at higher risk for kidney damage, heart disease, and other diabetes-linked problems. Further, quitting smoking is particularly important because smoking constricts the blood vessels that supply nutrients to the peripheral nerves; this can worsen neuropathy symptoms.8Therefore, it is important not to smoke.

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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.