- Unmanaged diabetes can lead to diabetic neuropathy and damage the nerves that send signals from your feet and hands.
- About 50% of people with diabetes may develop nerve pain.
- Managing your blood sugar is the best way to prevent nerve pain.
Diabetic neuropathy due to high blood sugar can cause numbness or a burning, sharp, or aching pain in your fingers, toes, hands, and feet. The pain may start as mild but can worsen over time and spread up to your legs or arms, making walking and even the softest touch painful.
It can also affect how you sleep, your quality of life, and even your mental health.
Treatments for diabetic nerve pain
There’s no way to replace damaged nerves, but there are ways to prevent further damage and relieve your pain. The most crucial thing you can do is to control your blood sugar to prevent further damage. Ask your doctor about your blood sugar goal so that you can monitor it. Eat a healthy diet, exercise, and take medicines to maintain healthy blood sugar. Manage other risk factors like your weight and habits like smoking.
Common medications like over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen, can help control your symptoms for a short time. You can get them without a prescription, but note that they can cause side effects. Other options that provide longer relief also exist.
Some doctors prescribe antidepressants for diabetic nerve pain because they obstruct the function of chemicals in your brain that cause you to feel pain. Note that some antidepressant drugs can cause dry mouth, fatigue, and sweating as side effects.
Opioid pain medicines
Powerful drugs like oxycodone and tramadol can treat more severe pain, but they should be the last resort for pain relief if other medications aren’t working. These drugs aren’t meant for long-term use because they have side effects and can cause addiction. Lidocaine patches are placed on the skin to deliver local anesthetic. However, these may cause mild skin irritation.
Drugs that help prevent epileptic seizures, such as gabapentin, pregabalin, oxcarbazepine, or carbamazepine, can also help with nerve pain. Pregabalin also promotes better sleep. You may experience side effects like drowsiness, swelling, and dizziness.
2. Physical therapy
Some physical therapy treatments can help treat diabetic neuropathy. These include low-impact exercises, like swimming. A physical therapist should be able to help you work through physical therapy methods to prevent further nerve damage. However, keep in mind that physical therapy can only relieve diabetic nerve pain, not cure it.
3. Capsaicin cream
Capsaicin cream has an ingredient also found in hot peppers, which can block pain signals. Capsaicin products come in cream, lotion, or jelly patch and are applied to affected parts to relieve pain. It may cause sun sensitivity, skin irritation, may interact with other drugs, or cause dangerous side effects.
4. Caring for your hands and feet
To care for your feet and avoid diabetic nerve pain damage, check your feet every day for any cuts or swelling, even if you don’t feel pain. Wash your feet every day with warm water, dry them thoroughly afterward, and apply a moisturizing lotion, but avoid the space in between your toes.
Wear shoes that give your feet room to move, and always protect your feet with shoes, slippers, or thick socks.