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NINDS Disorders is an index of neurological conditions provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This valuable tool offers detailed descriptions, facts on treatment and prognosis, and patient organization contact information for over 500 identified neurological disorders.

Neurology Patient Pages

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Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a peripheral nerve disorder caused by diabetes or poor blood sugar control. The most common types of diabetic neuropathy result in problems with sensation in the feet. It can develop slowly after many years of diabetes or may occur early in the disease. The symptoms are numbness, pain, or tingling in the feet or lower legs. The pain can be intense and require treatment to relieve the discomfort. The loss of sensation in the feet may also increase the possibility that foot injuries will go unnoticed and develop into ulcers or lesions that become infected. In some cases, diabetic neuropathy can be associated with difficulty walking and some weakness in the foot muscles. There are other types of diabetic-related neuropathies that affect specific parts of the body. For example, diabetic amyotrophy causes pain, weakness and wasting of the thigh muscles, or cranial nerve infarcts that may result in double vision, a drooping eyelid, or dizziness. Diabetes can also affect the autonomic nerves that control blood pressure, the digestive tract, bladder function, and sexual organs. Problems with the autonomic nerves may cause lightheadedness, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation, difficulty with bladder control, and impotence.

Treatment

The goal of treating diabetic neuropathy is to prevent further tissue damage and relieve discomfort. The first step is to bring blood sugar levels under control by diet and medication. Another important part of treatment involves taking special care of the feet by wearing proper fitting shoes and routinely checking the feet for cuts and infections. Analgesics, low doses of antidepressants, and some anticonvulsant medications may be prescribed for relief of pain, burning, or tingling. Some individuals find that walking regularly, taking warm baths, or using elastic stockings may help relieve leg pain.

Prognosis

The prognosis for diabetic neuropathy depends largely on how well the underlying condition of diabetes is handled. Treating diabetes may halt progression and improve symptoms of the neuropathy, but recovery is slow. The painful sensations of diabetic neuropathy may become severe enough to cause depression in some patients.

Research

The NINDS conducts and supports research on diabetic neuropathy to increase understanding of the disorder and find ways to prevent and cure it. New medications are currently being examined to assess improvement or stabilization of neuropathic symptoms.

View a list of studies currently seeking patients.

View more studies on this condition.

Read additional information from Medline Plus.

Organizations

American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)

Provides self-help coping skills and peer support to people with chronic pain. Sponsors local support groups throughout the U.S. and provides assistance in starting and maintaining support groups.

P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA 95677-0850
Tel: 916-632-0922 800-533-3231
Fax: 916-652-8190

American Diabetes Association

Non-profit health organization providing diabetes research, advocacy services, and information, including information on the complications of diabetes, such as diabetic neuropathy.

1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
Tel: 800-DIABETES (342-2383) 703-549-1500

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, International

International non-profit that works to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.

26 Broadway
14th Floor
New York, NY 10004
Tel: 800-533-CURE (-2873) 212-785-9500
Fax: 212-795-9595

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)

National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Room 5B-55
Bethesda, MD 20892
Tel: 301-496-4261

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Rm. 9A06 MSC 2560
Bethesda, MD 20892-2560
Tel: 301-496-3583 TTY: 866-569-1162

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