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Diabetes is a condition characterized by elevated sugar level in the blood. Diabetic nerve pain, also known as diabetic neuropathy, is a condition characterized by damage to the nerves caused by uncontrolled and long-term diabetes. Most affected patients are those who have had diabetes for 25 years or more. The damage to the nerves generally causes pain, although the pain is not severe in most cases.
There are four types of diabetic nerve pain that may develop in a diabetic patient. These are peripheral neuropathy, proximal neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and focal neuropathy. Symptoms of diabetic nerve pain usually depend on the type of neuropathy a diabetic patient has.
Among the four types, the peripheral diabetic nerve pain is the one most commonly seen. It is often felt in the hands, arms, legs, and feet. Symptoms include pain, tingling, severe numbness, and burning sensations, especially at night. This type of diabetic nerve pain can also result in loss of reflexes and weakness of the muscles. Some patients also develop blisters and sores on the skin, which often go unnoticed, leading to infection.
Autonomic neuropathy develops in the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for controlling the involuntary functions of the body, such as the beating of the heart, the breathing cycle, and food digestion. Systems affected by this type of neuropathy include the cardiovascular system, digestive system, urinary system, and reproductive system.
When neuropathy involves the cardiovascular system, the symptoms frequently seen are irregular heart rate, dizziness, low blood pressure, and nausea. Damage to the nerves of the digestive tract usually manifest with diarrhea or constipation, vomiting, heartburn, and nausea. Patients with diabetic neuropathy affecting the urinary bladder often present with frequent urination at night, inability to empty the bladder completely, and incontinence, which is the loss of urination control. When neuropathy involves the reproductive system, men usually experience erectile dysfunction, while women may have reduced vaginal lubrication as well as orgasm problems.
The proximal diabetic nerve pain is seen in the nerves supplying the muscles of the hips, buttocks, and upper legs. Affected patients often find it difficult to stand up without help due to weakness of the legs. Lastly, the focal diabetic nerve pain affects the head, torso, and legs. Patients may experience visual problems like double vision, eye pain, and focusing difficulty. Some patients also complain of pain in the lower back, abdomen, and chest.