Nerve Complications

neuron illustration

Elevated blood sugars can damage the peripheral nerves.

Symptoms of neuropathy include:

  • pain, numbness, and tingling of hands and feet
  • muscle weakness such as trouble climbing stairs
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dizziness and lightheadedness

Elevated levels of blood sugar can injure the blood vessels supplying the peripheral nerves, irritating and damaging them in the process. Such accumulated nerve damage is called diabetic neuropathy. Better blood glucose control can help restore healthy nerve function.

Nerve Disease

The nervous system includes our brain (central nervous system) and all of the nerves going from the brain to the rest of the body (peripheral nervous system). The nervous system is always at work. Sometimes – when we move or feel something – we are aware of it. But much happens automatically, including the control of our heart rate, the movement of food through the stomach and intestines and regulation of our blood pressure.

How diabetes affects the nerves

Your health care provider can determine that your symptoms are related to diabetes and not to some other condition. The best way to improve all forms of diabetic neuropathy is to control your blood sugar levels.

There are two categories of diabetic neuropathy:

  • Sensory and motor neuropathy
  • Autonomic neuropathy

Symptoms of neuropathy include:

  • Pain, numbness, and tingling of hands and feet
  • Muscle weakness such as foot drop, double vision, trouble climbing stairs and getting out of a chair
  • Stomach symptoms including bloating, nausea, vomiting of undigested food many hours after a meal, feeling full without eating much food. This is also referred to as gastroparesis.
  • Bowel trouble such as episodes of diarrhea especially at night
  • Difficulty with bladder emptying
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness from a very fast heart rate and trouble keeping the blood pressure high enough when sitting or standing up.

What is the treatment?

Before any treatment can be decided upon, you need to report any of these symptoms to your health provider. Your provider needs to make sure that the symptoms are due to diabetic neuropathy and not something else. Near normal blood sugar control will usually improve all forms of diabetic neuropathy. Pain medications should be used as needed. Your provider may refer you to an doctor for specialized treatment and evaluation.

Self-assessment Quiz

Self assessment quizzes are available for topics covered in this website. To find out how much you have learned about  Diabetes Complications, take our self assessment quiz when you have completed this section.  The quiz is multiple choice. Please choose the single best answer to each question. At the end of the quiz, your score will display. If your score is over 70% correct, you are doing very well. If your score is less than 70%, you can return to this section and review the information.

©2007-2020 Collective work Martha Nolte Kennedy,
The Regents of the University of California.
All rights reserved.