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What causes diabetic nerve pain on feet?

If you have diabetes, you may have neuropathy or nerve damage. Diabetes frequently causes neuropathy, resulting in chronic, widespread nerve discomfort. A group of nerve damages known as diabetic neuropathies is brought on by diabetes. However, the tingling, burning, and sometimes numbness are most severe in the feet. This is because of peripheral neuropathy.


What is peripheral neuropathy?


One of the four subtypes of diabetic nerve pain is peripheral neuropathy. One of the more prevalent kinds of diabetic nerve pain, it usually strikes your feet and legs before your hands and arms.


Medical professionals have identified the following types of peripheral neuropathy to assist patients with each condition's unique combination of symptoms and prognosis. 


  • Motor neuropathy. This damages the nerves that control muscles and bodily movements like moving your hands and arms or talking.
  • Sensory neuropathy. Skin sensations like temperature, discomfort, vibration, and touch are transmitted to sensory nerves. Sensory neuropathy affects these groups of nerves.
  • Autonomic neuropathy. Autonomic nerves control blood pressure, sweating, heart rate, digestion, and bladder function. Damage to these nerves can be severe.
  • Combination neuropathies. You can have a combination of two or three of these different forms of neuropathies., such as sensory-motor neuropathy.


Causes of diabetic nerve pain in feet 


Diabetic neuropathy most frequently manifests as peripheral neuropathy. It affects the nerves that supply power to your hands, feet, legs, and arms. The nerves that travel to your feet are the longest in your body because they must travel quite a distance after branching off the spinal cord in the lumbar region or your lower back.


Because the nerves leading to your feet are so long, they are more likely to sustain damage than others because there are more of them. Due to this nerve damage, diabetic foot complications such as foot deformities, infections, ulcers, and amputations may develop.


Patients with poorly controlled diabetes are more likely to experience the nerve damage that defines diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy, however, can manifest in diabetic patients with excellent blood sugar (glucose) management. There are several theories about why this happens, including the chances that nerve injury is caused by high blood glucose levels or restricted blood vessels.


  • Nerves act like cables, carrying sensations from various body parts to your brain. Those nerves may suffer harm from high blood sugar levels. Numerous nerves are impacted as diabetic peripheral neuropathy worsens, and these injured nerves may result in issues promoting ulcers' growth. For instance:
  • Motor neuropathy-related deformities (such as bunions or hammertoes) might make shoes rub on the toes, causing an infection. The patient may not be aware of what is happening because of the numbness brought on by sensory neuropathy.
  • A numb patient might not be aware that they have trodden on a little object and wounded their skin.
  • A sore may occur due to motor neuropathy complications, cracked skin brought on by autonomic neuropathy, numbness brought on by sensory neuropathy, and other factors.

Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy 


Since most nerve damage develops over the years, the initial symptoms are frequently moderate, and mild cases may go undiscovered for a long time. Many people with diabetes may not have neuropathy symptoms, but a clinician can detect them. These signs frequently get worse at night.


  • Gradual onset of numbness, tingling, or prickling in the toes, feet, legs, hands, arms, and fingers
  • Wasting of the muscles of the feet or hands

Extreme sensitivity to touch

  • Sharp, jabbing, throbbing, or burning pain
  • Pain during activities that shouldn't cause pain, such as pain in your feet when putting weight on them or when they're under a blanket

Muscle weakness

  • Lack of coordination and falling
  • Feeling as if you're wearing gloves or socks when you're not
  • Paralysis (motor nerves are affected)

If autonomic nerves are affected, signs and symptoms include:


  • Irregular heartbeat (known as 'arrhythmia')

Heat intolerance

Problems with urination

  • Excessive sweating or not being able to sweat
  • Bladder, bowel, or digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness due to a drop in blood pressure after standing or sitting up 

Peripheral neuropathy can affect one nerve (mononeuropathy), two or more nerves in different areas (multiple mononeuropathies), or many nerves (polyneuropathy). Weight loss and depression are two symptoms not associated with neuropathy but frequently accompany it.


Prevention of diabetic nerve pain in feet 


  • Manage underlying conditions - Keeping your diabetes under control is the most effective approach to preventing peripheral neuropathy and other risky medical issues.
  • Take care of yourself by taking your blood pressure and blood sugar (A1C) readings and writing them down for your upcoming doctor's appointment.
  • Managing your chronic disease by taking your prescription drugs as directed by your doctor.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices.

These habits support your nerve health:


  • Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein to maintain healthy nerves. By consuming meats, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products, and fortified cereals, you can prevent vitamin B-12 insufficiency. Fortified cereals are a decent source of vitamin B-12 if you're vegetarian or vegan, but consult your doctor about B-12 supplements.

  • Maintaining an active lifestyle. Exercises that increase mobility and heart rate are crucial for patients with peripheral neuropathy, even if their general health advantages are well established. Try to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes at least three times per week, with your doctor's approval.

  • Avoid anything that could harm your nerves, such as smoking, strenuous exercise, stifling positions that exert pressure on your nerves, harmful chemical exposure, and excessive alcohol use.

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy typically develops gradually and worsens over time rather than appearing suddenly. Many patients have this issue before receiving a diabetes diagnosis. However, long-term diabetes may raise the risk of developing diabetic neuropathy. This severe diabetes consequence may result in losing a foot, a limb, or even one's life.


Your doctor might recommend painkillers to you. Additionally, you must control your blood sugar through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Numerous individuals with nerve damage could experience depression or discouragement. Discuss your mental health with your healthcare physician. You might think about beginning therapy or joining a group for those who have nerve damage from diabetes.

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