Treatment options for Diabetic Neuropathies

Updated at: Jan 21, 2013
Treatment options for Diabetic Neuropathies

Treatment for diabetic neuropathy aims to relieve pain or prevent complications and restore function.

Dr Poonam Sachdev
DiabetesWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Dec 22, 2011

Diabetic neuropathy cannot be cured. Treatment for diabetic neuropathy aims to:

  • Slow the progression of the disease.
  • Relieve pain.
  • Manage or prevent complications and restore function.


Slow progression of the disease

Control of blood sugar within your target range is important to delay the progression of peripheral neuropathy. Maintaining blood sugar may even cause an improvement in your existing symptoms. Studies suggest that intense glucose control may significantly reduce the overall risk of diabetic neuropathy.

To help slow nerve damage

Some measures that are important to slow nerve damage are:

  • Go for a foot exam each year by a doctor or by a foot specialist (podiatrist).
  • Practice good foot care as recommended by your doctor.
  • Maintain your blood pressure in the normal range.
  • Maintain your blood sugar in the target range.
  • Practice healthy-eating habits.
  • Be physically active and do regular exercises.
  • Be at a healthy body weight.
  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol (men should limit to no more than two drinks a day and women to no more than one drink a day).


Relieve pain

Pain is a major problem in patients with diabetic neuropathy, which can be difficult to treat. It can have significant effect on a person’s quality of life. Several medications are used for treatment of nerve pain in diabetes, but no particular drug has been found to be effective in all patients. Most of the medications that are used have several side effects that have to be considered against the benefits they offer. Most people need a combination of medications or treatments for relieving pain in diabetic neuropathy. Many people may be recommended complementary and alternative therapies for pain relief in addition to prescription medications.

Some of the prescription medications used for pain relief include:

  • Anti-seizure medications: These medications (such as gabapentin, pregabalin and carbamazepine) are used for the treatment of seizure, but may provide relief from pain in diabetic neuropathy.  
  • Antidepressants: Some antidepressant medications, (such as amitriptyline, nortriptyline, desipramine, imipramine and duloxetine) may provide pain relief in people with mild to moderate nerve pain.
  • Lidocaine patch: It is a local anaesthetic, which on application as a patch on the area where your pain is most severe may relieve it.
  • Opioids: Theopioid analgesics (such as tramadol, codeine, oxycodone and morphine) are usually reserved to relieve pain in people who don’t respond to anything else. Prolonged use, however, can cause serious side effects including addiction, constipation, drowsiness and headaches; they are not preferred for long-term use.


Treat complications and restore function

People with diabetic neuropathy can develop complications such as urinary tract problems, digestive problems, low blood pressure on standing, and sexual dysfunction due to effect on the autonomic nerves. These problems can be managed with specific treatments for these complications of diabetic neuropathy. Your doctor will examine you, do tests and recommend treatment as required.


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