What Treatment for Diabetic Nerve Pain Is Available?
Treatment for diabetic nerve pain is designed to ease the pain sensations, prevent worsening of pain and nerve damage, and improve quality of life for those who live with diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage and pain caused by high blood sugar ("What Is Diabetic Nerve Pain? – Symptoms, Causes, Treatments"). While there is no cure for diabetic neuropathy and damage is irreversible, treating the condition does slow its progression and decrease pain. Multiple treatments for diabetic nerve pain are available. This overview will introduce you to available options.
These approaches are what’s good for diabetic nerve pain:
- Controlling blood sugar
- Nutrition and nutritional supplements
- Surgery and related interventions
- Lifestyle changes
Knowing what treats diabetic nerve pain can help you have informed discussions with your doctor and do what must be done to reduce pain and improve your life ("Anxiety and Diabetic Neuropathy: What Helps?").
Regardless of any other treatment you use, controlling your blood sugar is the most essential. It’s high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) that damages the nerves in any area of your body. Diabetic nerve pain in the legs, as well as diabetic nerve pain in the feet, are the most common locations of damage and pain, although nerve pain can occur anywhere.
When blood sugar remains high, nerves continue to be damaged. Therefore, the first line of treatment for nerve pain is to control blood sugar. Monitoring your blood sugar levels often and adjusting what you’re eating to get your levels in the acceptable range is helpful and can halt the progression of damage as well as reduce pain.
In addition to blood glucose control, medication can help relieve pain.
Medication as Treatment for Diabetic Nerve Pain
Medication is often prescribed to improve pain. This list highlights some commonly prescribed medications, but not all work equally for everyone. Further, many medications for pain interact dangerously with diabetes medication, so depending on what you’re currently taking, some of these won’t be prescribed. Side effects can sometimes be a problem. For these reasons, it’s important to communicate with your doctor about your experiences to make sure medication is a good idea.
Medications prescribed for the pain of neuropathy include:
- Antiseizure medications (gabapentin, pregabalin, or carbamazepine)
- Antidepressants (amitriptyline, nortriptyline, desipramine, imipramine, SSRIs—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SNRIs—serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)
- Opioid medications (for severe pain, but these can be highly addictive so caution is needed)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (prescription strength ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen)
- Lidocaine patch for uses as a topical anesthetic
- Over the counter (OTC) skin creams, including capsaicin cream, a product made from chili peppers that decreases pain signals sent through the nerves
Medicine can relieve pain, but it doesn’t cure the underlying problem. Medication has been found to be only partially successful in treating diabetic nerve pain. Research has demonstrated that prescription medications only reduce pain by 30 to 40 percent (Liao, 2015). Therefore, other methods must be used, in some cases instead of medications and in other cases to supplement treatment with medication ("Are There Natural Diabetes Treatments?").
Diabetic Nerve Pain Treatments with Nutrition and Nutritional Supplements
Eating properly is a component of blood sugar control; therefore, this approach can provide double benefits. Eating healthy foods and avoiding unhealthy options helps keep blood sugar within healthy levels, improving diabetes in general and nerve pain specifically.
Following your doctor’s or nutritionist’s recommendations for healthy eating is essential. Sometimes, though, we don’t get enough of the nutrients we need from food. When that happens, supplements are available to provide extra nutritional punch. Some health professionals believe that certain dietary supplements can help reduce nerve pain, such as:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B complex
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Vitamin D
Before taking supplements, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor. Some supplements interfere with diabetes medication or other prescription medications.
More research is needed in the growing field of supplements. They do have the potential to supply your body with what it needs to protect nerves and lessen the damage. Getting medical consent will ensure that supplements won’t cause more diabetes damage.
If supplements are a no-go, there are still treatment options for diabetic nerve pain.
Treating Nerve Pain with Surgery and Lifestyle Changes
In some cases, surgery can relieve compressed nerves. It can also destroy nerves so they no longer transmit and receive pain signals. Sometimes, a pain-relieving device is implanted to improve the sensation of pain.
Lifestyle options can go a long way in treating neuropathy:
- Daily exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Stress management techniques (deep breathing, yoga, mindfulness meditation, relaxation, pursuing interests)
- Foot care
- Wearing hand or foot braces to help nerve compression
- Orthopedic shoes or otherwise comfortable, supportive, well-fitting shoes
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
Treatment for diabetic nerve pain can sometimes feel like a burden, but it’s well worth it to ease pain and live more freely and enjoy improved physical and mental health.
Peterson, T. (2019, January 8). What Treatment for Diabetic Nerve Pain Is Available? , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/diabetes/complications/what-treatment-for-diabetic-nerve-pain-is-available