blood sugar from
diabetes affects the nerves and over time increases a
person's risk for nerve damage. Keeping blood sugar levels within the target range recommended by your doctor helps prevent diabetic neuropathy.
The most common type of nerve disease
(neuropathy) affects both sensory nerves, which send information to the spinal
cord and brain, and motor nerves, which relay impulses from the brain and
spinal cord to move muscles. This is called diabetic peripheral
Diabetes also affects the nerves that control
involuntary body functions, such as digestion. This is called diabetic
Diabetes can affect single nerves. This is
called diabetic focal neuropathy.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy
neuropathy, people experience a decrease in sensation or even numbness as well
as trouble moving the feet and, later on, the fingers and hands. As a result
of this neuropathy, many people with diabetes can't feel when they have
injured their feet, and they may not know if calluses or ulcers form. Because
of the risk of serious foot injury and infection, it is very important that
people with diabetes learn how to examine their feet daily, wear shoes that fit
well, and protect their feet from injury.
Diabetic autonomic neuropathy
Diabetes can affect
the autonomic nervous system, which are nerves that we can't consciously
control. The autonomic nervous system controls many aspects of the body's
functioning, such as heart rate and blood pressure, the workings of the
gastrointestinal system, and sexual function.
When the autonomic nerves regulating the heart
and blood vessels are affected, a person's heart rate and blood pressure may
go up and down abnormally or may not rise appropriately in response to a stimulus
such as exercise. Sometimes, people who have diabetes can experience fainting
spells because their blood pressure drops rapidly.
nerves affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) system control the way these organs
contract and relax in order to move food along. When the nerves that cause the
stomach to contract and move food are affected, it is called diabetic
gastroparesis. Sometimes the effects on the GI system becomes so severe that a
person has to be fed through a feeding tube placed in the small intestine,
bypassing the stomach. When diabetes damages these nerves, a wide range of
symptoms can result, including:
A sensation of food getting stuck because
of problems with how the esophagus contracts and relaxes.
and vomiting because of problems with the stomach.
constipation and diarrhea because of abnormal functioning of the large
Occasionally, fecal incontinence.
When the urinary system is affected, emptying
of the bladder may be delayed or incomplete. This increases the chances of
developing a urinary tract infection. Severely prolonged bladder emptying
(urinary retention) can lead to urinary incontinence and, sometimes, fluid
backup into the kidneys.
When the nerves in the sexual organs are
affected, sexual troubles develop. Diabetes can cause problems in the
autonomic nerves that allow a man to achieve an erection and ejaculate. Women
may experience vaginal dryness.
Diabetic focal neuropathy
Sometimes, single nerves
can be affected by diabetes (focal neuropathy). These nerves may be peripheral, such
as the nerves in the legs and arms, or cranial, such as the nerves that control
When single nerves become affected, the result is
weakness or paralysis of the muscles controlled by the nerves. Usually these
motor nerve neuropathies resolve by themselves over a period of several
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.