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Take Charge of Your Diabetes

Diabetic nerve damage (also called diabetic neuropathy) is a problem for many people with diabetes. Over time, high blood glucose levels damage the delicate coating of nerves. This damage can cause many problems, such as pain in your feet. There’s a lot you can do to take charge and prevent nerve damage. A recent study shows that controlling your blood glucose can help prevent or delay these problems. Controlling your blood glucose may also help reduce the pain from some types of nerve damage.

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Some Signs of Diabetic Nerve Damage

Image of a man sweating and with his hand on his head.
Having trouble telling your glucose is low may be a sign of nerve damage.

Some signs of diabetic nerve damage are pain, burning, tingling, or loss of feeling in the feet and hands. It can cause you to sweat abnormally, make it hard for you to tell when your blood glucose is low, and make you feel light-headed when you stand up.

Nerve damage can lead to other problems. Some people develop problems swallowing and keeping food down. Nerve damage can also cause bowel problems, make it hard to urinate, cause dribbling with urination, and lead to bladder and kidney infections. Many people with nerve damage have trouble having sex. For example, men can have trouble keeping their penis erect, a problem called impotence (erectile dysfunction). If you have any of these problems, tell your health care provider. There are ways to help in many cases.

Image of a health care professional speaking with a man.Tell your health care provider if you have trouble with sexual function.

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Protecting Your Nerves From Damage

Keep Your Blood Glucose in Control

High blood glucose can damage your nerves as time goes by. Work with your health care team to keep your glucose levels as close to normal as you can.

Have a Physical Activity Plan

Physical activity or exercise may help keep some nerves healthy, such as those in your feet. Ask your health care team about an activity that is healthy for you.

Get Tested for Nerve Damage

Image of feet being tested.
At least once a year, your health care provider should do a complete check of your feet and

Nerve damage can happen slowly. You may not even be aware you’re losing feeling in your feet. Ask your health care provider to check your feet at each visit. At least once a year, your provider should test how well you can sense temperature, pinprick, vibration, and position in your feet. If you have signs of nerve damage, your provider may want to do more tests. Testing can help your provider know what is wrong and how to treat it. Keep track of your foot exams.

For more information on foot care, call the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse at 1-800-860-8747.

Check Your Feet for Changes

If you’ve lost feeling in your feet, you’ll need to take special care of them. Check your feet each day. Wear shoes that fit well. You’ll read more about foot care in the next chapter.

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