By Everyday Health Editors
About half of all people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage, or diabetic neuropathy, which can lead to serious problems over time.
Over time, the presence of too much glucose in your cells can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels called capillaries that deliver blood to your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning, or pain.
Poorly controlled blood glucose can even cause you to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs – and a loss of feeling in your feet makes you more vulnerable to injury and infection. Let’s say you get a blister or small cut on your foot that you don’t feel: Because you don’t know it’s there, you may miss the symptoms of an infection in the wound. It’s imperative for you to check your feet regularly to avoid this and be meticulous in your foot care, because untreated infections can result in gangrene (the death of tissue) and may lead to the amputation of the affected limb or toes.
Diabetes can also make it more difficult for your body to fight infections in general. Various skin conditions are linked to diabetes, and even the most minor cuts or sores can turn serious fast. Any bumps, cuts, or scrapes should be cleaned and treated with an antibiotic cream and monitored carefully.
Nerve Damage: What to Watch For
If you notice any of these symptoms associated with nerve damage or infection, see your doctor:
Inflammation and tenderness anywhere on your body
Red, itchy rash surrounded by small blisters or scales
Cuts, sores, or blisters on your feet that are slow to heal and are not as painful as you would expect (due to a loss of sensation)
Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in your hands or feet, including your fingers and toes
Sharp pain that gets worse at night
Muscle weakness that makes walking difficult
Bladder infections and problems with bladder control
Bloating, stomach pain, constipation, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Erectile dysfunction in men and vaginal dryness in women
Remember: If you keep your blood-glucose levels on target, you can help prevent or delay nerve damage. If you already have nerve damage, this will help prevent or delay further damage. You should also speak to your doctor about other treatments that can help.