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Definition of Diabetic neuropathy

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Diabetic neuropathy: Nerve damage caused by diabetes that leads to numbness and sometimes pain and weakness in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Diabetic neuropathy can affect the digestive tract, heart, and genitalia. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk of neuropathy. There are four types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal. Peripheral neuropathy, the most common, causes pain or loss of feeling in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Autonomic neuropathy can cause changes in digestion, bowel and bladder control problems, and erectile dysfunction, and it can affect the nerves that serve the heart and control blood pressure. Proximal neuropathy produces pain in the thighs and hips and weakness in the legs. Focal neuropathy can strike any nerve in the body, causing pain or weakness. Treatment of diabetic neuropathy principally involves bringing the blood glucose and glycohemoglobin levels into the normal range. Good foot care is mandatory. Analgesics, low doses of antidepressants, and some anticonvulsant medications may be prescribed for relief of pain, burning, or tingling. Some patients may find that walking regularly, taking warm baths, and using elastic stockings help relieve leg pain due to diabetic neuropathy.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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