Treating (and Preventing) Diabetic Neuropathy

A doctor testing the sensibility of a patient's foot.

Proper foot care is an important part of living with diabetes.

That’s because foot problems are extremely common when you have diabetes. If you don’t watch your blood sugar levels, foot problems can lead to open sores, infections and even amputations.

[See: Got Diabetes? Why You Must Protect Your Feet.]

The most common foot problem if you have diabetes is peripheral neuropathy, a disorder of the nerves. Doctors believe the biggest culprit is poor blood sugar control over time. “I tell patients that it’s as if their nerves have been short-circuited and nerve signals can’t get down to the feet,” says Dr. R. Randal Aaranson, a podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon at Orthopedic Associates in St. Louis.

Neuropathy can affect other parts of your body, including your legs, hands and arms, but it’s most common in the feet.

About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some sort of neuropathy, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Your risk increases as you get older.

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