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How is diabetic peripheral neuropathy diagnosed?

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical exam. Your doctor will examine your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle strength, sensitivity to touch and temperature, and reflexes. Your doctor may also order an electromyography, which performs a nerve conduction study to determine whether there are any disorders in the peripheral nerves. Since the feet and legs show the first signs of peripheral neuropathy, it is recommended that you have your feet examined on a regular basis.

Peripheral neuropathy is diagnosed by:
  • Foot exams -- Your health care provider should look at your feet at each office visit to check for injuries, sores, blisters or other problems. As a reminder, take off your shoes and socks when you're in the exam room.
Have a complete foot exam once a year. If you already have foot problems, have your feet checked more often. A complete foot exam includes a check of the skin on your feet, your foot muscles and bones, and your blood flow. Your provider will also check for numbness in your feet by touching your foot with a monofilament. It looks like a stiff piece of nylon fishing line or a bristle in a hairbrush.

Other ways to check your nerves include using a tuning fork. It may be touched to your foot to see if you can feel it moving.
  • Nerve conduction studies and electromyography (EMG) -- If the doctor thinks you might have nerve damage, you may have tests that look at how well the nerves in your arms and legs are working. Nerve conduction studies check the speed with which nerves send messages. An EMG checks how your nerves and muscles work together.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.