Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes. Feet and legs are the areas most commonly affected. Nerve damage in the feet can lead to tingling, burning, numbness and pain, and may progress to further complications such as foot sores, loss of reflexes and sometimes amputation. There are several ways to gain relief from the symptoms of neuropathy besides medication. These include lifestyle changes, alternative therapies and herbal supplements.
Most patients who have neuropathy have polyneuropathy, which is a term for damage involving many nerves at the same time. Diabetic neuropathy is the most common form of neuropathy. It is a progressive complication of diabetes, particularly in those who have a hard time managing their blood sugar levels, as well as people who have high blood pressure, are overweight, or over 40 years old.
Nearly 60 percent of diabetics have some form of neuropathy caused by their diabetes, according to The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy. If you have diabetic neuropathy, over the course of several years, your symptoms may progress from numbness to weakness. Reflexes may eventually be lost, along with the ability to feel change in temperature or pain.
Early symptoms of diabetic neuropathy may improve when blood sugar is kept under control. As neuropathy progresses, pain relief becomes more important. Treatment with heat or cold may not offer relief, because you may have lost the ability to feel temperature change.
The goal of treatment for diabetic neuropathy is pain relief and prevention of further tissue damage. Blood sugar levels should be brought under control by diet and medication. Be sure to get regular exercise and work to stay at your desired weight. Exercise is especially important, because regular exercise will help bring blood sugar levels under control, and this may reduce neuropathic pain. Be sure to inspect your feet daily for sores or injuries. If you smoke, it is important that you take steps to quit, because cigarette smoking can affect circulation and increase the risk of eventual amputation.
Alternative therapies are drug-free treatments that may offer some relief for neuropathic pain. Massage, acupuncture and relaxation techniques are some examples of alternative therapies.
Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant that has been found to reduce pain in many people who suffer from diabetic neuropathy. Another supplement that may reduce pain and regenerate nerve fiber clusters is acetyl-L-carnitine.