What is diabetic neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy refers to a type of nerve damage associated with diabetes. It is one of the most common complications of type 1 and types 2 diabetes. People who experience high blood sugar levels are prone to nerve injuries throughout the body. It often occurs in the legs and feet. Consistent blood sugar management and following a healthy lifestyle will prevent the onset of this condition. Moreover, it will inhibit other serious complications linked to diabetes.

The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy depend on four different types. These are as follows:

Peripheral neuropathy – Also called distal symmetric peripheral neuropathy, this type is the most common of diabetic neuropathy.

Its symptoms include:

  • Tingling
  • Burning sensation
  • Pains
  • Cramps
  • Numbness (often lead to permanent numbness)
  • Ulcers in the foot
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Sensitivity to touch

Autonomic neuropathy – This type affects specific organs of the body, such as the heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs, and eyes.

Its symptoms include:

  • Unaware of having low blood sugar levels
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gastroparesis
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Heartburn
  • Vision problems
  • Decreased sexual desire

Proximal neuropathy – Also called diabetic amyotrophy, this type of diabetic neuropathy targets the nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks, and legs.

Its symptoms include:

  • Weakened muscles in the thighs and legs
  • Extreme pain in the hips, thighs, and buttocks region
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Numbness of the legs
  • Difficulty to stand from a sitting position
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Loss of muscle tissue

Mononeuropathy – This type of diabetic neuropathy has two main subtypes – cranial and peripheral. Since it’s a focal neuropathy, it only targets or damages a specific nerve.

Its symptoms include:

  • Vision problems or double vision
  • Eye pain
  • Bell’s palsy (paralysis on one side of the face)
  • Numbness of the hands and fingers.
  • Lower back pain
  • Weakened hands
  • Chest pain


Diabetic neuropathy is diagnosed by the doctor in different ways: performing a physical exam, thoroughly checking a person’s symptoms, and reviewing his/her medical history.

The physical exam is performed by checking the patients’ muscle strength, tendon reflexes, and sensitivity to touch and vibration. Once done, the doctor will carry out a careful review of the medical history to know if the patient has been diagnosed with other diseases that may hinder the treatment or cause it to fail.

To better help the doctor in diagnosing diabetic neuropathy, other tests may be performed. These tests include:

  • Filament test (monofilament test) – A method used to test the patients’ sensitivity to touch. It is done by brushing a soft nylon fibre to the affected areas of the skin.
  • Muscle response testing – Also called electromyography, this method determines the number of electrical discharges created in the muscles.
  • Nerve conduction testing – A procedure that assesses the conduct of electrical signals in the nerves, especially in the arms and legs.
  • Sensory testing – This method can tell how the nerves respond to neurologic functions.
  • Autonomic testing – A method used to detect the changes in blood pressure while moving to different positions.


There is no known cure for diabetic neuropathy, but treatments are available to lessen and slow the progression of the disease. The main objectives of the treatments are to relieve symptoms associated with the disorder and manage the complications it will bring in the future.

To prevent the disease from developing, it is important to keep the blood sugar level at a normal and healthy range. This way, diabetic neuropathy can be controlled, and the functions of the affected organs can be fully restored. Besides this practice, it is also necessary to exercise regularly and quit activities that can harm the entire body system.

There are also medications available in properly treating and managing the disease. These medications include:

  • Pregabalin (Lyrica)
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Amitriptyline

Should you experience the symptoms mentioned above, it is best to visit your doctor immediately and get tested for the disease. Seek medical advice at once and follow the provided treatment to live healthily.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.