Managing Diabetes Neuropathy: Strategies for Living Well

Jeannette | Posted on April 17, 2024 

Diabetes is one of the most common health conditions in the United States, and diabetes neuropathy is one of its most common complications. It is estimated that around 20-30% of people with type I or type II diabetes will develop it at some point. For around 15%, the condition is painful. 

Diabetes neuropathy is the medical term for nerve damage that results from diabetes. While it can happen anywhere in the body where nerves are present, it’s most common in the hand, feet, and limbs. It can’t currently be cured, but it can be managed and prevented from getting any worse.

Join us as we take a deep dive into what you can do to live your best life with diabetes neuropathy.

Blood Sugar Management

Good diabetes management and the control of diabetes neuropathy go hand in hand. According to the Mayo Clinic, high blood sugar levels are particularly damaging. You may feel nerve damage in your legs, hands, and feet, but further damage may be done internally to your digestive system and heart.

Keeping your blood sugar levels consistent can reduce the risk of further damage to your nerves, blood vessels, eyes, and other parts of your body. Some strategies to achieve consistent blood sugar include:

  • Regular blood sugar testing
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising consistently
  • Working with your doctor to adjust diabetes medicine or insulin

Healthy Nutrition

We all know that if you’re living with diabetes, you need to reduce your sugar intake. However, it’s also important to ensure your diet is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

It’s good to limit your consumption of refined wheat flour products and replace this with whole grains. Currently, the consumption of refined grains is about 5 times that of whole grains in the United States. Some easy ways to include more whole grains include eating brown rice, using barley instead of noodles in chicken soup, and switching out oatmeal for whole grain alternatives.

Increase your consumption of whole fruits and vegetables. Skip juice and smoothies, and benefit from the vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes along with the fiber naturally present in whole fruits and veggies. It’s also good to limit your salt intake, as increased sodium can cause complications for neuropathy.

Get Active

Diabetes neuropathy has the potential to limit your mobility. So get ahead of this by increasing your activity levels, which can help to reduce pain and even support the health of your nerves. 

Consider incorporating some low-impact exercises into your daily routine. These could include gentle walking, cycling, or swimming. Getting the right footwear could make these as comfortable as possible. 

In some cases, physical therapy could also help you build muscle strength and regain some functions that your neuropathy may have limited.

Quit Smoking

Researchers believe that smoking causes oxidative stress in cells. This can make diabetes neuropathy worse, causing cell damage and death. Smoking also promotes insulin resistance, which compounds the problem.

The simple answer is to quit smoking, although it is appreciated that this is easier said than done. Your doctor can help you access smoking cessation services that can support you to achieve your goal.

Reduce Stress

Stress triggers a hormonal response in our bodies that can make diabetes neuropathy worse. The body releases cortisol and adrenaline when we are stressed, which causes inflammation. This can lead to cell and nerve damage. 

It is impossible to eliminate all stress from our lives, but stress management techniques can help if you are living with diabetes. These include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Prayer
  • Hobbies
  • Spending time in nature

Also, being isolated can increase our stress levels. Spending time with friends and family is a natural stress reliever.

Natural Pain Relief Techniques

Pain medications can be helpful in temporarily treating the discomfort associated with some forms of diabetes neuropathy. However, they can have side effects. Natural pain relief methods can bring many of the same benefits without the unwanted side effects.

Some natural options include:

  • Alpha lipoic acid
  • Chromium picolinate
  • Cinnamon
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Omega-3 fish oil
  • Vitamin B12

Some of these natural supplements, such as alpha lipoid acid and chromium picolinate, are known to improve insulin sensitivity. This can support the body’s natural defenses against nerve damage.

Some people have found acupuncture helpful. It can help reduce stress and pain levels with very few side effects. Although we do not know exactly how it works, it may stimulate blood flow and release chemicals that support normal nerve function.

How Your Doctor Can Help

While you can do much to prevent the progression of diabetes neuropathy with lifestyle changes, your doctor plays a crucial role in helping you manage the condition. 

For example, your doctor may use the A1C test to determine the average of your blood sugar levels over the last three months. This can help them make lifestyle recommendations or adjust your medication. It may also help them decide when it is time to transition from medication alone to insulin treatment. 

Your doctor can also monitor the development of your neuropathy. They will carry out tests and look for the signs of other related conditions, such as diabetes cellulitis and diabetic infections. They can also effectively treat diabetic wounds and prevent them from developing into more serious conditions.

Your doctor can also help you get checked for signs of diabetic retinopathy. This condition can cause vision loss, but with good diabetes management, it may be possible to slow this down or prevent it altogether. Your doctor is best placed to monitor and help you manage this condition.

Choose Family Medicine Austin for Diabetes Neuropathy Care

Living with diabetes is much easier with the support of doctors who specialize in diabetes care. The dedicated team at Family Medicine Austin understands diabetic care and is ready to help you manage your condition through lifestyle and medication.

Our team has years of experience in helping patients with diabetes neuropathy manage their condition. Whether you have type I or type II diabetes, we are ready to help you slow the progression of diabetes-related conditions. 

Ready to find out what we can do for you? Click here to book an appointment with a diabetes specialist today!

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