A person with diabetes experiencing leg pain should pay close attention to her symptoms. They could be an indication that she is experiencing nerve damage that could become progressively worse if not treated.
People with diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic neuropathies, a classification of nerve disorders. Diabetes is usually caused when a person's pancreas does not produce enough insulin to regulate blood glucose levels automatically. Instead of being passed on to cells and fueling the body, glucose builds up in the blood and is eliminated through urination. Neuropathies are found in about 60 percent of people with diabetes. Leg pain is one of the first symptoms many people with diabetes experience after developing a neuropathy.
The leg pain symptoms of a diabetic neuropathy often begin with a tingling sensation that begins in a person's feet and spreads up to his legs. The tingling can be fairly gentle or it can be sharper and more painful, more like prickling. This symptom causes relatively minor levels of pain but should not be ignored. It is one of the first indications that a person is experiencing nerve damage. The earlier a person with diabetes is diagnosed with neuropathy, the sooner the damage can be stopped.
Painful leg cramps are another symptom of diabetic neuropathy. More common in older adults with diabetes, cramps are also an indication of nerve damage in a person's legs. A person will often experience pain concentrated on one side of her body with this type of neuropathy. The pain of the leg cramps is often followed by symptoms including weakness in the legs and the inability to rise from a seated position without help.
Other types of leg pain in a person with diabetes can also indicate the development of a neuropathy. He can experience extreme skin sensitivity to the point where even the brush of clothing or a sheet against his legs causes high levels of pain. Another patient might experience numbness in her legs, which can be as frightening to experience as pain. Lack of sensation in her legs also puts her at a higher risk for injury to her legs.
There are treatments available for the leg pain symptoms of diabetic neuropathies. The first is to bring the patient's blood glucose levels under control. If a person with diabetes can keep those levels even, he can prevent future nerve damage. A doctor can prescribe oral medication to treat leg pain. Topical pain relievers may help with the pain as well. For patients with extremely painful skin, a device called a bed cradle that keeps fabric from touching the skin can provide some relief.