Numbness of the feet may be a symptom of diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage. Diabetes damages the nerve endings, which leads to neuropathy. One type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy, which affects such body parts as the feet, legs and hands. Neuropathy is not curable, but proper treatment can help prevent the condition from becoming worse, according to a statement paper by the American Diabetic Association in the April 2005 issue of "Diabetes Care."
Feet require special care among individuals with diabetes. Not only does diabetes damage nerve endings, the condition hinders the body's ability to fight infections. Having numbness or reduced sensation in the feet may inhibit one's awareness of feeling blisters or sores on the feet, which may easily lead to medical complications, such as foot ulcers, serious infections or amputations, according to a 2003 issue of "Lancet." To help prevent medical complications among individuals with numb feet, the American Diabetic Association advises checking feet daily for sores, blisters and cuts. Primary care providers and podiatrists can also check the feet during examinations. Also recommended is checking shoes for rough edges and small objects before putting them on. If foot sores are found, the American Diabetic Association advises seeking medical attention from a podiatrist or primary care provider.
Insulin and Medication
Diabetic neuropathy may get better with improved management of blood glucose levels, or blood sugar levels, according to the "Diabetes Care" article. Taking insulin or diabetes medication can help keep blood glucose levels within target range as established by a health care provider. Types of insulin include regular insulin, long-acting insulin and rapid-acting insulin. A health care provider may prescribe different types of insulin during the day and night to help control blood sugar levels.
Sometimes pain accompanies the numbness of neuropathy. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxyn sodium, are sometimes used to relieve the pain from diabetic neuropathy. Prescription medications are also used to treat pain. These prescription medications are more typically used to treat depression or seizures. According to the "Diabetes Care" article, the drugs for depression that research indicates to be also effective in treating neuropathy include amitriptyline and imitriptyline, which are a type of medication called tricyclic antidepressants. Commonly prescribed medications for neuropathy pain that are primarily used to treat seizures, or anticonvulsants, include gabapentin and pregablain, as noted by the "Diabetes Care" article.
Maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle may also help manage blood glucose levels, thus improve diabetic neuropathy, according to the "Diabetes Care" article. For overweight or obese individuals, weight loss may be indicated to help prevent worsening of symptoms of neuropathy and diabetes. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, getting regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake and refraining from smoking tobacco is recommended by the American Diabetes Association as part of a healthy lifestyle to help manage diabetes and diabetic neuropathy.
Is This an Emergency?
- Diabetes Care”; Diabetic Neuropathies: Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association; Andrew Boulton, MD, Arthur Vinik, MD, PhD, Joseph Arezzo, PhD, Vera Bril, MD, Eva Feldman, MD, PhD, Roy Freeman, Rayaz Malik, PhD, Raelene Mazer, PhD, Jay Sosenko, MD, and Dan Ziegler, MD; April 2005.
- “Lancet”; Diabetic Food Ulcers; William Jeffcoate, MD and Keith Harding, MD; May 3, 2003.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases