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How can diabetes affect the nerves?

If you have diabetes, over time excess glucose can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and, over a period of months or years, gradually spreads upward. About half of all people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage. It is more common in those who have had the disease for a number of years. Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy.

If you have diabetes, take the following steps to prevent or delay nerve damage:

  • Meal planning, physical activity and medications, if needed, all can help you reach your average glucose target range.
  • Track your blood glucose levels.
  • Report any possible signs of diabetic neuropathy, such as pain or numbness in your feet.
  • If you have problems, get treatment right away. Early treatment can help prevent more problems later on.
  • Take good care of your feet. Check your feet every day. If you no longer can feel pain in your feet, you might not notice a foot injury. Make sure your health care provider checks your feet at every visit!
  • Get special shoes if needed. If you have foot problems, Medicare or other insurance may pay for shoes. Ask your healthcare team about it.

If you have diabetic neuropathy, talk to a diabetes clinical exercise expert who can guide you, as some physical activities are not safe for people with neuropathy.

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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.