Patient Education: Diabetic Neuropathy

This resource describes several measures that patients with diabetes can take to prevent or control diabetic neuropathy, including peripheral neuropathy.

This article was originally published in Pharmacy Times.

When you have diabetes mellitus, which is referred to as diabetes, your blood glucose (sugar) level is consistently high. Untreated, a high sugar level damages your nerves. Blood vessels that take oxygen to your nerves are also damaged. Damaged nerves send messages slowly or at the wrong times. Nerves eventually stop sending messages to the brain. This damage is called diabetic neuropathy.

Diabetic neuropathy can occur in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is needed to convert glucose into energy that the body needs. Type 2 diabetes is more common. In type 2 diabetes, the body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. The body begins to make extra insulin. Over time, the body cannot make enough insulin to keep the glucose level normal.

What factors increase a patient’s chances of developing diabetic neuropathy?

People with diabetes can develop nerve problems at any time. The risk increases with age. The highest rates of nerve problems are among people who have had diabetes for at least 25 years.

Neuropathies are more common in people who are overweight and have high cholesterol levels. The risk increases when control of their blood glucose level is inadequate. Other risk factors include smoking, heavy alcohol use, and being tall. Having both diabetes and high blood pressure greatly increases the risk for serious complications.

To access the full-text version of this article, visit the Pharmacy Times website.