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NINDS Diabetic Neuropathy Information Page


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What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy is a peripheral nerve disorder caused by diabetes or poor blood sugar control. The most common types of diabetic neuropathy result in problems with sensation in the feet. It can develop slowly after many years of diabetes or may occur early in the disease. The symptoms are numbness, pain, or tingling in the feet or lower legs. The pain can be intense and require treatment to relieve the discomfort. The loss of sensation in the feet may also increase the possibility that foot injuries will go unnoticed and develop into ulcers or lesions that become infected. In some cases, diabetic neuropathy can be associated with difficulty walking and some weakness in the foot muscles. There are other types of diabetic-related neuropathies that affect specific parts of the body. For example, diabetic amyotrophy causes pain, weakness and wasting of the thigh muscles, or cranial nerve infarcts that may result in double vision, a drooping eyelid, or dizziness. Diabetes can also affect the autonomic nerves that control blood pressure, the digestive tract, bladder function, and sexual organs. Problems with the autonomic nerves may cause lightheadedness, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation, difficulty with bladder control, and impotence.

Is there any treatment?

The goal of treating diabetic neuropathy is to prevent further tissue damage and relieve discomfort. The first step is to bring blood sugar levels under control by diet and medication. Another important part of treatment involves taking special care of the feet by wearing proper fitting shoes and routinely checking the feet for cuts and infections. Analgesics, low doses of antidepressants, and some anticonvulsant medications may be prescribed for relief of pain, burning, or tingling. Some individuals find that walking regularly, taking warm baths, or using elastic stockings may help relieve leg pain.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for diabetic neuropathy depends largely on how well the underlying condition of diabetes is handled. Treating diabetes may halt progression and improve symptoms of the neuropathy, but recovery is slow. The painful sensations of diabetic neuropathy may become severe enough to cause depression in some patients.

What research is being done?

The NINDS conducts and supports research on diabetic neuropathy to increase understanding of the disorder and find ways to prevent and cure it. New medications are currently being examined to assess improvement or stabilization of neuropathic symptoms.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Diabetic Neuropathy Clinical Trials

Organizations

Column1 Column2
American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA   95677-0850
ACPA@theacpa.org
http://www.theacpa.org
Tel: 916-632-0922 800-533-3231
Fax: 916-652-8190

American Diabetes Association
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA   22311
askada@diabetes.org
http://www.diabetes.org
Tel: 800-DIABETES (342-2383) 703-549-1500

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, International
26 Broadway
14th Floor
New York, NY   10004
info@jdrf.org
http://www.jdrf.org
Tel: 800-533-CURE (-2873) 212-785-9500
Fax: 212-795-9595

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Room 5B-55
Bethesda, MD   20892
nidcrinfo@mail.nih.gov
http://www.nidcr.nih.gov
Tel: 301-496-4261

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Rm. 9A06 MSC 2560
Bethesda, MD   20892-2560
http://www.niddk.nih.gov
Tel: 301-496-3583 TTY: 866-569-1162

 


Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated September 16, 2008