Diabetic neuropathy is caused by diabetes or impaired glucose intolerance. In both of these disorders, the body does not process sugar effectively, causing elevated sugar levels in your blood. The elevated sugar levels damage your nerves, leading to neuropathy. Patients often complain of burning, tingling, or numb feelings in their feet, legs, or hands. These symptoms may be more noticeable at night or when resting.
Your health care provider may order an oral glucose tolerance blood test. This is a 2-hour fasting blood test that gives the provider information about how you process sugar. They may also order a nerve conduction study/electromyography, skin biopsy or nerve biopsy to further evaluate your nerves and muscles.
Treatment for diabetic neuropathy focuses on pain management, sugar control and supportive services. There are several medications and other treatments that help alleviate tingling and burning pains. These pain medications do not alter the course of your neuropathy. Sugar control such as diet, exercise and diabetic medications work on keeping your sugar within normal limits. Normal sugar levels do not damage the nerves. If caught early and given treatment it is possible to slow and reverse the progression of diabetic neuropathy.
Other support services, such as physical therapy, and other medical specialists may be required for diabetic ulcers, muscle weakness and balance training.