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Losing Nerve—Pain, That Is

Losing Nerve—Pain, That Is

Peripheral nerve pain is a common complication of type 2 diabetes, resulting from poorly controlled blood sugar—especially over the long haul. It happens to around half of folks with diabetes. Symptoms include tingling, burning sensations in fingers and toes, sharp pain or cramps in arms and legs and extreme sensitivity to touch. It can cause loss of coordination, wound-healing problems, sleep disruption and limited overall activity.

General treatments may involve antidepressants, anti-seizure meds, such as those in the gabapentin family or opioids, as well as topical capsaicin cream and lidocaine patches and even surgery. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) adds that topical alpha-lipoic acid and evening primrose oil may also help improve nerve function. But since every case is different, sufferers can spend what seems like a lifetime searching for relief.

Finally, an in-depth review of various treatments has pinpointed what’s most likely to provide some relief. A study published in Neurology has determined:

  • there’s moderate evidence that the antidepressants duloxetine and venlaxine are effective in reducing neuropathy-related pain
  • there’s some evidence that botulinum toxin, the anti-seizure drugs pregabalin and oxcarbazepine, tricyclic antidepressants and atypical opioids, also can be somewhat effective in reducing pain

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

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