How diabetes affect nerves?

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, the chances are that someone, somewhere down the line has mentioned to you that it can affect your nerves. You might be wondering how exactly this happens? Well worry not friends! I’m here to give an informal lowdown on what’s going on and hopefully eliminate some of the confusion.

What is Diabetes?

Before we dive into how diabetes affects our nerves, let’s quickly recap what it actually is. Essentially diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose (sugar) in blood which leads to various issues within our bodies. There are two types of diabetes; type 1 and type 2.

Type 1: often develops early in life usually resulting from genetics or related factors like other autoimmune disorders.

Type 2: Usually begins later in life and often tied closely with lifestyle factors such as poor diet or lack of exercise.

In each case, if left unchecked or poorly managed then health complications may arise including nerve damage known as neuropathy.

What is Neuropathy?

Now onto – neuropathy – a common long-term complication caused by high blood sugar levels over time. In simple terms,what happens here is small blood vessels responsible for supplying nutrients and oxygen start getting obstructed thanks to high-levels of glucose present around them.

This ultimately results in damaged nerves due to prolonged periods without nutrition being superseded through these vessels, therefore leading towards problems like numbness/tingling sensations(sensory), pain(mostly sensory) possibly accompanied by muscle weakness(motor). Most commonly affected areas include hands-feet (-due-to-the longest trails they have within our body).

Types of Neuropathy:

There’re several kinds prevalent out there but we’d focus only upon five crucial ones under-diabetic context:

Peripheral Neuropathy:

It’s said that approximating half diabetic patients end up developing some kind of peripheral neuropathy
at some point which is the one typically associated with this ailment. As discussed earlier , most commonly affected areas include feet and legs however in severe cases may go up to forearms, hands or even head area.

Autonomic Neuropathy:

This form of neuropathy can affect many different parts of the body as it pertains to organs/systems responsible for involuntary processes(encourages automatic working). Think maybe a loss of appetite, problems related digestion/urinary tract etc.

Radiculoplexus Neuropathy:

Mainly targets nerve clusters near hips/thigh which are pretty significant in leg control.

Proximal neuropathy:

Hips-thighs region is mainly susceptible where you’re more likely to feel pain/burning sensation before actual weakness starts setting-forth (cautionary-!)


Involves damage that could be specific around a single nerve fibre here-loss usually isn’t too widespread.

What Causes Diabetic Neuropathy?

There’s probably no definitive answer since this depends on multiple factors including disease duration/severity among other things but potentially speaking- following reasons might culminate into nerve-damage under diabetes:

  • High levels blood sugar present within our circulation causing undue stress/injury towards small capillaries surrounding nerves thereby reducing their capacity/capability.
  • Inflammatory reactions induced by high glucose concentrations abound throughout which ultimately result weakening supports-sheathing necessary for controlling nerve fibres specially while facing mechanical pressures due-to physical activities etcetera.
  • Autoimmune responses wherein bodies own defensive mechanisms end-up mistaking neurons as hostiles thus attacking them relentlessly,this too contributes towards gradual deterioration over time.


Peripheral-neuropathy -related symptoms tend to vary from person-to-person depending on intensity/type involved.However these are some relatively common signs folks can easily notice:

  • Numbness/tenderness to touch
  • Burning/tingling sensations present in target area
  • Muscle weakness
  • Inability to feel cold/hot temperatures

For autonomic neuropathy-related symptoms, it’s more of a mixed bag but some common issues with this type include:

  • Sudden changes in blood pressure levels
  • Digestion related troubles such as constipation/diarrhea that persist without reason.
  • Problems related to sexual functionality


To ascertain nervedamage existence and its extent,MRI scans/electromyography are wonderful tools. While MRI helps identify damages pertaining towards tendons/organs whose functions could be affected by nerve-damage: Electromyography is used as an aid for testing muscle contractions associated with the movement powered by specific nerves.

Neuropathic damage can unfortunately reach quite advanced stages before being diagnosed .Therefore although there might not be any obvious signs,constant monitoring through routine check-ups especially for diabetic patients remains necessary.

Treatment Options:

Unfortunately despite numerous researchers claiming effectiveness upon multiple candidates available/produced so far medications targeting treatment of underlying pain signal transmission mechanisms(Nuerontin)might be the only ones showing promise at present day.Although injections containing nutrients capable replenishing some-increased demand caused due-to damaged vessels have shown use-but those require administration almost daily.

Exercise(!!) , Diet control(^_^), stretching routines can help prevent further deterioration from occurring hence often suggested (Pencil those noodles now -you hear me?)

Regular visits/proper medication consumption(as prescribed)to manage diabetes itself alongside close-followups under qualified health-care practitioners may help you fight against aforementioned or even other complications newer studies might point out down-the-line.

Prevention Strategies & Tips

Since diabetes-related-nerve-damages usually takes long period developing,having sound preventive strats always pay off in the end. Some tips that could help minimize impending risk includes:

  • Maintaining consistent blood-glucose levels by keeping track of sugar intake-through-diet and/or regulating insulin shots – (Good vibes with a brand-new glucometer anyone?).
  • Cleaning feet regularly along with nail-trims,might sound cumbersome but it helps!
  • Routine medical follow-ups geared towards watchful monitoring thus helping hinder any ambiguous symptoms from compounding too much.

Oh, and for those who actually managed to finish reading through all this-whizzes just go reward yourself!(Or if you hadn’t been diagnosed maybe reconsider your noodle-consumption ^_^).Anyhow hope this helps!