Diabetes and Your Nerve Health

3 minutes read

You may be aware that nerve damage is a common complication of diabetes, but did you know the risks there are and the precautions you need to take? Learn more about the relationship between diabetes and nerve damage and to lower the risks of Nerve Damage if you have diabetes. 1

In this article:
Diabetes and Your Nerve Health

Diabetes and Nerve Damage in Figures

Nerve Damage to the nerves outside your brain and spinal cord that develops as a complication of diabetes is known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy. 2 

Here are a few key statistics about diabetes and nerve damage: 34

  • 100% of diabetics are at risk of developing nerve damage 

  • as many as 50% of diabetics develop nerve damage 

  • up to 50% of people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy don’t experience any symptoms 

Risk Factors For People With Diabetes

If you have diabetes, here are some risk factors for nerve damage you should be aware of: 

Blood Sugar Control5

This is the greatest risk factor for diabetic complications, including nerve damage.  

  • High blood sugar. Research has shown that high blood sugar is a major cause of nerve damage, so avoiding spikes and keeping blood sugar consistently within your target range is the best way to protect the health of your nerves and blood vessels. 

  • Diabetes medication. Metformin—a common diabetes medication—can cause vitamin B deficiency as a side effect. Vitamin B deficiency is another known cause of nerve damage. 

Other Risk Factors and Complications

  • Vitamin B deficiency. A low level of B vitamins can be a major contributing factor to nerve damage in people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, ask your doctor about taking a vitamin B complex.6 

  • Duration of diabetes. Your risk of diabetic neuropathy increases the longer you have diabetes, especially if your blood sugar level isn't well-controlled.5 

  • Kidney disease. Diabetes can cause damage to the kidneys, which may in turn lead to nerve damage. The reasons for this are not fully understood, but one factor may be an increased loss of essential vitamins that are crucial for a healthy nervous system.7 

  • Being overweight. Being overweight or obese may increase your risk of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.8 

  • Smoking. If you are diabetic, cigarettes increase your risk for neuropathy, so quitting is essential to limit the development of diabetic complications.9  

  • High blood pressure. This condition, also known as hypertension, is a risk factor for both cardiovascular disease and diabetic neuropathy.10

  • Foot care. Diabetic patients are at high risk of unknowingly injuring their feet due to सुन्नता (numbness). In people with diabetes, this pamamanhid (numbness) is the result of nerve damage and commonly starts in the feet. Look after your feet and have them checked regularly by your doctor or check them yourself to prevent sores, ulcers or even gangrene.11

In Short6

For some people, the symptoms of nerve damage are mild. For others, diabetic neuropathy can be painful and debilitating. 

Diabetes also affects the metabolism of the neurotropic vitamins B12 and D3, leading to a greater risk of deficiencies. As these vitamins are essential for nerve health, keeping their level within the normal range is of vital importance. 

In addition to following the other advice in this article, it is best to speak to your Doctor to further reduce your risk of nerve damage if you have diabetes.   

Article Sources

¹ Lee, C. C., Perkins, B. A., Kayaniyil, S., Harris, S. B., Retnakaran, R., Gerstein, H. C., ... & Hanley, A. J. (2015). Peripheral neuropathy and nerve dysfunction in individuals at high risk for type 2 diabetes: the PROMISE cohort. Diabetes care, 38(5), 793-800.

² Head, K. A. (2006). Peripheral neuropathy: pathogenic mechanisms and alternative therapies. Alternative medicine review, 11(4).

³ Vinik, A. I., & Mehrabyan, A. (2004). Diabetic neuropathies. Medical Clinics, 88(4), 947-999.

⁴ Vinik, A. I., Nevoret, M. L., Casellini, C., & Parson, H. (2013). Diabetic neuropathy. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics, 42(4), 747-787.

⁵ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Diabetic neuropathy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/nerve-damage-diabetic-neuropathies/all-content

⁶ Calderón‐Ospina, C. A., & Nava‐Mesa, M. O. (2020). B Vitamins in the nervous system: Current knowledge of the biochemical modes of action and synergies of thiamine, pyridoxine, and cobalamin. CNS neuroscience & therapeutics, 26(1), 5-13.

⁷ Pyram, R., Kansara, A., Banerji, M. A., & Loney-Hutchinson, L. (2012). Chronic kidney disease and diabetes. Maturitas, 71(2), 94-103.

⁸ Wilding, J. (2014). The importance of weight management in type 2 diabetes mellitus. International journal of clinical practice, 68(6), 682-691.

⁹ Eliasson, B. (2003). Cigarette smoking and diabetes. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 45(5), 405-413.

¹⁰ Grossman, A., & Grossman, E. (2017). Blood pressure control in type 2 diabetic patients. Cardiovascular diabetology, 16(1), 1-15.

¹¹ Hicks, C. W., & Selvin, E. (2019). Epidemiology of peripheral neuropathy and lower extremity disease in diabetes. Current diabetes reports, 19(10), 1-8.

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