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Can diabetes cause nerve damage?

Yes. People with diabetes (sometimes called “diabetes mellitus”) can get nerve damage if they have high blood sugar levels for a long time. Another word for nerve damage is “neuropathy.” People with diabetes can get different types of nerve damage, and sometimes this results in pain.

What are the symptoms of nerve damage caused by diabetes?

Nerve damage usually affects the toes and feet first. Some people do not feel any symptoms, but other people can have symptoms that include:

  • Numbness or loss of feeling
  • Burning or pain – Pain is often worse at rest or at night.
  • Tingling
  • Feeling light touches as bothersome or painful

As nerve damage gets worse, symptoms can move from the feet up the legs. Once people feel symptoms in the middle of their lower legs, they might also start to feel symptoms in their hands.

Is there a test for nerve damage caused by diabetes?

Yes. Your doctor can usually tell if you have nerve damage by talking with you and doing an exam. Sometimes, a doctor will do a test to check how well a person’s nerves are working. This test is called “electromyography.”

Can nerve damage be prevented?

Yes. If you have diabetes, you can reduce your risk of getting nerve damage by:

  • Keeping your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible
  • Not smoking
  • Losing weight, if you are overweight
  • Making sure that your high blood pressure and heart disease are treated (if you have these conditions)