Diabetic Neuropathy

November 12, 2012

Diabetic neuropathy can be split into 4 main types of which you may have just one type or a combination. In most cases the symptoms develop slowly and can be quite advanced by the time they become noticeable. In some people, particularly those suffering from type 2 diabetes, symptoms of neuropathy are noticed before diabetes.

Diabetic Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy

The first kind of diabetic neuropathy is known as peripheral neuropathy and is the most common form. It affects the longest nerves first, starting at the ends. This means that the body parts affected first are the feet and legs followed by the hands and arms. Further symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Numbness particularly in the feet and toes

  • A tingling or burning sensation

  • A sharp jabbing pain that tend to become worse at night

  • Pain when walking

  • Extreme sensitivity resulting in even the lightest of touches being agonisingly painful

  • Muscle weakness leading to a difficulty walking

  • Serious foot conditions such as infections, deformities, bone and joint pain

 Autonomic neuropathy

Another form of diabetic neuropathy is called autonomic neuropathy, which affects the autonomic nervous system, controlling the heart, lungs, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs and eyes. This kind is most likely to occur in people who have been suffering from diabetes for many years but have been controlling it poorly. Symptoms include:

  • Being unaware of low blood sugar levels

  • Bladder problems including frequent urinary tract infections

  • Constipation, diarrhoea or both

  • Slow stomach emptying

  • Nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Vaginal dryness

  • An increase or decrease in sweating

  • A feeling of light headedness when standing after sitting or lying down

  • Difficulty regulating body temperature

  • Difficulty adjusting your eyes after moving from light to dark

  • Difficulty exercising

  • Increased heart rate even at rest

Radiculoplexus neuropathy

Radiculoplexus neuropathy is the third form of diabetic neuropathy and tends to affect nerves nearer to the hips or shoulders. It is most common in older people as well as sufferers of type 2 diabetes. In most cases symptoms are focused to one side of the body but it has been known to spread to both sides. With treatment, patients usually improve over time and some other symptoms to look out for include:

  • A sudden intense pain in the hip and thigh or buttock

  • Weak and atrophied thigh muscles

  • Difficulty getting up from a seated position

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Abdominal swelling


The fourth of the main types of diabetic neuropathy is called mononeuropathy referring to the fact that only one nerve is damaged. It often occurs very suddenly and may affect the face, arm or leg. Although painful it is usually not long term with symptoms disappearing after a few weeks. Older people are most likely to be affected by mononeuropathy and other signs of a damaged nerve include:

  • Difficulty focusing, double vision or pain behind one eye

  • Paralysis to one side of the face

  • Pain in the foot or shin

  • Pain in the thigh

  • Pain in the chest or abdomen

Carpel tunnel syndrome occurs when the nerve is compressed and is also common in people with diabetes. Look out for symptoms such as a numbing or tingling sensation in the fingers, weakness in the hand muscles, which causes you to drop things and more severe symptoms after having just woke up.

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