There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal.
Each type can affect the body in different ways, and it’s not uncommon for people to experience symptoms of different types of diabetic neuropathy at the same time.
In this article, we are going to focus specifically on peripheral neuropathy and how it affects the feet.
Foot pain caused by this potentially debilitating condition is serious business and will worsen over time if not addressed early and often.
We hope this guide will give you a better understanding of what’s happening with your feet and what you can do to combat diabetic neuropathy.
- What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
- What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
- What Causes Diabetic Neuropathy?
- What Does Foot Pain Caused by Diabetic Neuropathy Feel Like?
- Is Diabetic Neuropathy Permanent?
- Diabetic Neuropathy Treatment
- Diabetic Foot Pain Relief & Remedies
- Products that Help Relieve Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy
What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by high blood sugar which can manifest as pain or numbness throughout the body depending on which nerves are effected. The side effects may be minor at first and can even go unnoticed, but can worsen over time and result in serious, disabling pain if left untreated.
Approximately 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy and the chances of facing nerve-related issues rises the older you get and the longer you live with diabetes.
Diabetic neuropathy is more prevalent in people who don’t properly control their blood sugar levels, people who are overweight, people with high blood pressure, and people who smoke. Controlling your blood sugar and living a healthy lifestyle is paramount to managing this disease.
The most common type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage which effects the legs, feet, toes, arms, and hands. Most people experience symptoms in the legs or feet first, and the pain can often be more intense at night.
What Causes Diabetic Neuropathy?
Prolonged exposure to high blood sugar is the main cause of diabetic neuropathy. High blood sugar can have a detrimental effect on nerves in the body and can disrupt the nerves’ ability to transmit signals. The nerves to the feet are the longest in the body and are the ones most often affected by neuropathy.
Additional causes may include inflammation, genetics, and prolonged abuse of cigarettes and alcohol resulting in nerve damage.
What Does Foot Pain Caused by Diabetic Neuropathy Feel Like?
Because nerves in the body are essential to everything you do, nerve damage and the associated pain can seriously affect your quality of life. And because nerves are responsible for so many bodily functions, nerve damage can manifest in many different ways, especially in the feet.
Foot pain caused by diabetic neuropathy can cause any of the following symptoms:
- Prickling sensation
- Jabbing pain that feels like a pin prick
- Inability to feel pain or temperature changes
- Sharp pains or cramps
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Loss of reflexes (especially in the ankle) changing the way a person walks which could lead to blisters or sores, or cause other pain throughout the legs or back
Foot deformities may also develop in patients with diabetic neuropathy, such as:
- Collapsing of the arch
If you experience any of these symptoms you should consult your doctor immediately.
Is Diabetic Neuropathy Permanent?
In most instances, the body is unable to cure or reverse nerve damage entirely. The focus then must shift to slowing progression, relieving pain, and dealing with any complications that may affect function.
“Once neuropathy has developed, few types can be fully cured, but early intervention can improve outcomes.”
Start by treating the underlying condition that is contributing to the problem — in this case, diabetes.
Diabetic Neuropathy Treatment
It is crucial to keep blood sugar within a normal or target range as recommended by your doctor. This can slow the progression of diabetic neuropathy and may even help with current symptoms.
It may be necessary to adjust your diet to help hit these ranges. The Ketogenic diet, for instance, has been shown to help people lose weight and decrease the bodies need for insulin. Make sure to consult with your doctor before making a major change in diet.
Maintain an active lifestyle. Just a little exercise every day can get your heart pumping and get your muscles using more glucose, which, over time can lower your blood sugar levels. If you are already experiencing foot pain try something that has minimal impact on your feet, like swimming or bicycling.
Stop smoking (or any other method of tobacco consumption)! It has been shown that nicotine increases blood sugar levels, potentially leading to serious complications for diabetics.
Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. Again, consult with your doctor on this issue, but in general, consuming alcohol causes your liver to have to work to remove the alcohol from your blood stream instead of performing it’s most important job of regulating your blood sugar.
Diabetic Foot Pain Relief & Remedies
Let’s first look at some activities that should be performed regularly – daily, weekly, monthly, or annually – as a means of slowing the progression of diabetic neuropathy and preventing further complications, not to mention providing a little diabetic foot pain relief.
- Check your feet for open wounds, blisters, cuts, scratches, bruises, sores, cracked or peeling skin, redness, swelling, calluses, corns, or ingrown toenails – even if they feel fine. Diabetic neuropathy can cause a loss of sensation in the feet and you may not feel something causing discomfort. Unchecked issues can become infected and infections can quickly lead to serious complications, including amputation. Check your feet daily!!
- In that same vein, always check your shoes before putting them on. As mentioned, you could be experiencing a loss of sensation and not be aware of something rolling around in your shoe (like a rock). It’s also important to check for any sharp or rough edges that may have become exposed inside the shoe.
- Wash your feet with mild soap and warm water, and thoroughly pat dry. This is a good time to check for any abnormalities on your feet.
- Apply lotion to the tops and bottoms of your feet to keep them from cracking. Avoid getting lotion between your toes to prevent any fungal growth.
- Change your socks daily. Wear natural-fibers: cotton, wool, or a cotton-wool blend. Avoid tight socks.
- Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Avoid high heels and pointed toes.
- Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles. Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time.
- Keep your toenails clipped and filed to avoid any sharp edges. Nails are softest after a bath or shower so take advantage of that time to clip them.
- Regularly visit your doctor for a comprehensive foot exam at least once per year – preferably more frequently if you’re already experiencing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
Other Things to Avoid
- Avoid soaking your feet for long periods of time. Soaking your feet may cause the skin to break down and put you at risk for developing cuts or sores. Any opening in the skin can put you at increased risk for infection.
- Avoid walking barefoot. Always protect your feet with closed toe and closed heel shoes or boots – something that will also protect your feet from cold or wet weather.
Products that Help Relieve Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy
The following products have been well reviewed and have shown promise in relieving pain associated with diabetic neuropathy. Read the reviews and do your homework if something sounds promising to you.
As always, please consult your doctor before taking any pills or using any creams. Everyone’s situation is unique and complications can always arise, so better to be safe than sorry.
The MedMassager is one of our favorite foot massagers for neuropathy sufferers. This adjustable 11 speed foot massager is the most powerful vibrating massager available, and has consistently earned rave reviews from neuropathy sufferers who see increased circulation after using this unit.
“REVITIVE works by applying mild, clinically proven electrical stimulation to your feet to actively stimulate the thousands of nerve-endings. This gets your ‘Second Heart’, i.e. the muscles in your feet and legs, to continuously contract and relax to pump the blood back up your legs and back to your heart.”
This unit uses vibration, magnetism, and heat to treat the feet. It specifically targets acupuncture points in the foot. “Massaging the acupuncture points can accelerate blood circulation and unblock blood vessels to promote body’s metabolism.”
Similar to the Sunpentown massager, this unit targets acupressure points with vibrating massagers and heat. “With the combined technologies and treatment methods in the Farnsworth & Lloyd Foot Massage machine you may experience some pain reduction or relief, improved circulation, relaxation, and increased comfort.”
Advanced nerve support supplement that is said to “put an END to the BURNING, TINGLING and STABBING PAIN once and for all.”
Nerve support formula that uses a combination of Taurine with other key ingredients to improve the blood and mineral supply to damaged and needy nerves.
This supplement is all natural, and designed to provide real relief and nutritional support for people who have nerve pain or nerve damage associated with neuropathy.
Nutional support for neuropathy sufferers. “According to emerging studies there is evidence that the active ingredient in nurenza causes a significant and clinically relevant decrease in neuropathic pain.”
“A breakthrough, advanced formulation that has rapidly become THE #1 preferred choice for those suffering through neuropathy” (among many other conditions). THE MOST 5-Star Reviews of any Pain Relief Product on Amazon BY FAR.
Advertised specifically as neuropathy treatment, “Wise Men Healing Balm treats peripheral neuropathy for temporary pain relief of shooting pain, tingling pain and numbness. Wise Men is a natural and holistic alternative that gives the body what it needs to get back to balance and heal itself. Rather than just addressing symptoms, our essential oil formula addresses the root cause of nerve pain and decreases the chance of experiencing recurring symptoms.”
MyoMed Pro neuropathy pain relief provides “fast, safe and effective relief from your neuropathy pain with it’s all natural, potent blend of homeopathic, powerful essential oils.”
Neuropathy rubbing oil that provides “soothing, fast, temporary relief from neuropathy pain caused by diabetes, chemotherapy, and more.”
Diabetic Neuropathy is a serious condition that cannot go ignored. And although most types of neuropathy can’t be fully cured, it’s important not to lose hope. Early and consistent intervention can go a long way in helping to improve your situation. It’s important that you develop a game plan now and stick with it! Practice daily maintenance, change your diet, experiment with products designed to relieve neuropathy pain, and maybe make some different lifestyle choices than you would have in the past. Your feet are the foundation of your body and you owe it to yourself to take care of them as best as you can.