What is Diabetic Neuropathy?


September 11, 2019

Nearly half of patients who have diabetes suffer from some type of neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by high glucose levels. It is common and serious for patients who have diabetes. While diabetic neuropathy can cause issues with the digestive system, blood vessels, and heart, it most often damages nerves in the legs and feet.

This condition sometimes causes painful and disabling symptoms. However, it can often be prevented by managing blood sugar levels and with a healthy lifestyle.

diabetic neuropathy

Different Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy. The symptoms may develop gradually and you may not even notice that anything is wrong or painful until significant nerve damage has occurred.

Peripheral Neuropathy

This type of nerve damage usually affects the legs and feet. It can also affect the hands and arms. It is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy. Symptoms are typically worse at night, and include:

  • Numbness and loss of sensitivity to pain & temperature
  • Sharp pain or cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Decreased balance and coordination
  • Serious foot problems – ulcers, infections, joint and bone pain

Focal Neuropathy

Focal neuropathies, or mononeuropathies, are conditions in which there is damage to a single nerve. It is most common in the face, torso, or leg. This type of diabetic neuropathy can cause severe pain and symptoms can appear suddenly. However, there is rarely long-term damage and the symptoms usually go away on their own.

Pain usually occurs in the foot, lower back, pelvis, or chest and abdomen. Focal neuropathy may also causes nerve problems in the face and eyes which can lead to double vision, paralysis to the face (Bell’s palsy), and trouble focusing.

Autonomic neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy is damage to the nerves that control your internal organs. It leads to problems with blood pressure and your heart rate, bladder, sweat glands, digestive system, and sex organs.

Common symptoms include:

  • Bladder paralysis
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach conditions, such as gastroparesis

Proximal neuropathy

Proximal neuropathy, also known as radiculoplexus neuropathy, is nerve damage that affects the hip, buttocks, and thighs. This is more common in patients who have type 2 diabetes and elderly patients.

Symptoms typically appear on one side of the body, but can spread to the other side. Symptoms include severe pain in the hip, weak or atrophying thigh muscles, or weight loss.