Dealing with Nerve Damage
Nerve damage is a common complication of diabetes. It's also called diabetic neuropathy, and it's the result of high blood sugar levels. The sugar in the blood damages nerve cells.
When you have diabetic neuropathy, there are two primary goals: preventing further nerve damage and treating the existing symptoms.
The most important thing you can do if you have diabetic neuropathy is to try to get your blood sugar under better control. To do this, it's a good idea to check in with your healthcare team to review the different aspects of the way you manage your condition. That means
- Talking with your doctor or nurse practitioner about having the A1C test, which shows how well your diabetes has been managed over time (the goal is to have the A1C under 7)
- Meeting with a registered dietitian to take a look at the foods you eat now and to see what you can do to bring your food plan in line with your goals of good diabetes management
- Talking about your overall management, including how often you test your blood sugar level, medications, activity level, food intake, etc.
If you have pain because of nerve damage, it's important to get treatment. Being in constant pain affects your daily life and your ability to sleep. If affects your state of mind, and it might even make it harder for you to focus on controlling your diabetes. Treatments for diabetic neuropathy include:
Medication: It's been difficult to find drugs that treat neuropathy successfully without causing unpleasant side effects. And over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, aren't effective for most people. But two newer drugs, which were approved by the FDA several years ago, have had a bit more success. One is an anti-depressant called duloxetine. The other is an anticonvulsant called pregabalin. If you do take medication for neuropathy, be sure to ask your doctor how long it takes to experience relief and what the possible side effects are.
Topical creams: For some people, lidocaine cream and capsaicin cream can provide some relief.
Pain specialists: If medications and creams don't provide enough pain relief, it's possible that a pain specialist can help. Treatment at a pain clinic can help patients learn new ways to cope with the pain they have.
► Another important component of caring for yourself if
you have diabetic neuropathy is inspecting your feet carefully every day. To
read more about this, read "What
to Check for when You're Checking Your Feet."