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Beware of Neuropathy in Patients with Diabetes

Diabetes may already be familiar to the public ear. This metabolic disease is characterized by high blood sugar levels and is very likely to cause complications if not properly controlled.

Broadly speaking, there are two classifications of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys beta cells in the pancreas, so insulin production is reduced. Type 1 diabetes often occurs at the age of children.

While type 2 diabetes occurs due to beta cells in the pancreas no longer able to produce insulin in sufficient quantities. Type 2 diabetes is most commonly experienced by the elderly, although it does not rule out the possibility to occur at a young age.

Whatever type of diabetes happens, this disease needs to be controlled. If the sufferer is neglected, one of the complications that may occur is diabetic neuropathy.

Most people who have diabetes will experience diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is peripheral nerve damage due to diabetes. This condition causes symptoms of numbness, tingling, burning sensation, and unbearable pain. Symptoms will get worse if diabetes is not controlled properly.

In people with diabetes, high blood sugar levels in the body over a long period of time will weaken the walls of blood vessels that provide nutrition to nerve cells.

Diabetics have a high risk of peripheral nerve cell damage or peripheral neuropathy. If diabetes is not controlled and nerve damage is not treated as early as possible, it will reach a crucial stage so that nerve disorders are increasingly difficult to heal.

How to treat this condition?

Although damaged nerves cannot be replaced, there are other ways to prevent further damage and reduce pain. Here are some ways you must do:

1. Maintain normal blood sugar levels

The first step to treating pain is to control your blood sugar, so the damage does not develop. Talk to your doctor about controlling blood sugar, and learn how to keep blood sugar normal.

You may be asked to reduce blood sugar by 70-130 mg / dL before meals and less than 180 mg / dL blood sugar after meals.

2. Healthy life

Adjust your diet, exercise, and medication consumption from your doctor to lower your blood sugar to the normal target level. Also, pay attention to other health risks that can make your diabetes worse. Maintain your weight so that it is always ideal.

If you smoke, ask your doctor to explain various effective ways to stop smoking.

3. Take medicine

To overcome this diabetic neuropathy, the doctor will initially advise you to take pain medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen. This medicine is available without a prescription and can cause side effects. Try using a low dose for a short time to control the symptoms. There are other options if you need long-term pain relief or stronger pain relief.

4. Antidepressant medication

These drugs are most often used to treat depression. However, antidepressants are also often prescribed to treat diabetic nerve pain, because they can affect chemicals in your brain that cause you to feel sick. Your doctor may recommend tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline (Elavil), imipramine (Tofranil), and desipramine (Norpramin).

Antidepressant drugs can cause unpleasant side effects such as dry mouth, fatigue, and sweating. You may not be advised to take tricyclic antidepressants if you have a history of heart problems.

The latest generation of serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) such as venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) are alternatives to tricyclics. These drugs tend to have fewer side effects.

5. Anticonvulsant medicine

Drugs used to prevent seizures in epilepsy sufferers such as pregabalin, gabapentin, phenytoin, and carbamazepine generally can also help overcome nerve pain. Pregabalin can also help you sleep better. Side effects of this drug include drowsiness, swelling, and dizziness.

6. Opioid pain medication

For stronger pain relief, there are medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) and opioids like tramadol (Conzip, Ultram). This drug tends to be the last resort for dealing with pain. You can switch to these drugs if pain medications such as paracetamol and aspirin don't work.

Although these medicines can help reduce pain, they are not meant to be taken long term. This is because the risk of side effects is large and the potential for addiction. Be careful when taking opioids and consult your doctor before taking them.

7. Topical pain relief

There are also products that you can rub or stick to your skin in areas that hurt. Capsaicin cream (Arthricare, Zostrix) can help prevent pain signals by using ingredients found in chilies. Capsaicin products can cause skin irritation in some people.

The lidocaine patch provides local anesthetic through patches placed on the skin. Please remember, this treatment can sometimes cause mild skin irritation.

8. Alternative medicine

Several alternative therapies have been studied for diabetic nerve pain, although these therapies have not been proven to be effective in treating this nerve pain. Alternative treatments that you can try to reduce the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy are:

  • supplements such as alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine
  • biofeedback
  • meditation
  • acupuncture
  • hypnosis

Prevent Diabetes Neuropathy

In preventing neuropathy, one thing you can do is take vitamins that contain B1, B6, and B12. Vitamins B1 and B12 contribute to nerve health by facilitating the delivery of impulses to the peripheral nerves and helping the production of myelin, the layer that protects nerves. Meanwhile, vitamin B6 is important for brain development, maintaining a nervous system and maintaining a healthy immune system.

In addition to taking vitamins, neuropathy can also be prevented and controlled by adopting a healthy lifestyle. The trick, avoid foods that contain high fat, sugar, and carbohydrates so that blood sugar levels do not increase.

Not enough with that, you also need to exercise five times a week with a duration of 30 minutes each session. Make sure the type of exercise is fun and following the condition of your body.

Diabetic neuropathy is one of the many complications that can occur due to diabetes. Prevent this condition by taking the right vitamins and adopting a healthy lifestyle. If symptoms of diabetic neuropathy have already occurred, don't delay to immediately see a doctor so that treatment can be immediately applied.



  1. American Academy of Neurology (2017). Therapies for treating diabetic nerve pain.
  2. American Family Physician (2010). Treating Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathic Pain.

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