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Diabetic Neuropathy


Diabetic neuropathy (DN) is a condition caused by nerve damage from long-term high blood sugar levels. The most common nerve damage occurs in the legs, feet, arms, or hands. Nerves in your heart or digestive system may also be damaged.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have pain, pressure, or fullness in your chest that lasts longer than a few minutes or returns.
  • You have pain or discomfort in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm.
  • You have a sudden cold sweat.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your legs or feet start to turn blue or black.
  • You have a wound that does not heal or is red, swollen, or draining fluid.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your blood sugar level is higher or lower than healthcare providers have told you it should be.
  • You have redness, calluses, or sores on your feet.
  • You have diarrhea or are constipated.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Medicine may be given to control your blood sugar or decrease pain. You may also need medicine to prevent vomiting and help you digest food.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Control your blood sugar:

Keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. You may need to check your blood sugar levels 3 times each day.

Follow your meal plan:

Follow the meal plan that your healthcare or dietitian gave you. This meal plan can help you control your blood sugar and decrease your symptoms.

Care for your feet:

Check your feet each day for cuts, scratches, calluses, or other wounds. Look for redness, swelling, and warmth. Wear shoes that fit well. Check your shoes for rocks or other objects that can hurt your feet. Do not walk barefoot or wear shoes without socks. Wear cotton socks to help keep your feet dry.

Exercise regularly:

Exercise can help keep your blood sugar level steady and help you manage your weight. Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. You will need to be careful when you exercise and check your feet every day if you have decreased feeling in your feet.

Maintain a healthy weight:

Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. A healthy weight can help you control your diabetes. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight. Even a 10 to 15 pound weight loss can help you manage your blood sugar level.

Limit alcohol:

Alcohol affects your blood sugar level and can make it harder to manage your diabetes. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

Do not smoke:

Nicotine can worsen your symptoms and make it more difficult to manage your diabetes. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You will need to have your feet checked at least once each year. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.