How Do You Treat Diabetic Neuropathy?

acupuncture

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  • While there is no known cure for diabetic neuropathy, there are methods that may help ease this disease
  • Talk to a doctor first to help you determine the type of treatment that’s ideal for your condition and aid with lowering the risk of developing side effects

While there is no known cure for diabetic neuropathy, there are methods that may help ease this disease. The Mayo Clinic emphasizes that treatment for diabetic neuropathy should focus on the following:1

Slowing down progression of disease

Relieving pain

Managing complications and restoring function

Complications Linked to Diabetic Neuropathy Must Be Addressed Too

Apart from treating diabetic neuropathy, patients should also be treated for common complications of this disease, such as:2

Urinary tract problems — Behavioral techniques like timed urination and devices like pessaries (rings that are inserted into the vagina to prevent urine leakage) can be used to alleviate these problems and aid with treating loss of bladder control. A combination of treatments may be most effective.

Digestive problems — Dietary changes can help relieve diarrhea, constipation and nausea linked to diabetic neuropathy.

Meanwhile, when addressing mild symptoms of gastroparesis (slow stomach emptying3) such as indigestion, belching, nausea or vomiting, doctors may recommend patients to eat smaller, more frequent meals, reduce fat and fiber intake and/or eat soups and pureed foods.

Low blood pressure on standing (orthostatic hypotension) — Lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol consumption, drinking plenty of water, and sitting or standing slowly can help address this concern.

A doctor can also recommend the use of an abdominal binder, a compression support for the abdomen and/or compression stockings. There are also medicines that can be taken alone or together to help treat orthostatic hypotension.

Sexual dysfunction Certain drugs may help improve sexual function in some men, but these may not be safe or effective.

Men experiencing sexual dysfunction because of diabetic neuropathy can try mechanical vacuum devices instead that may increase blood flow to the penis, while women can find relief by using vaginal lubricants.

Ideal Treatments for People With Diabetic Neuropathy

Patients with diabetic neuropathy are often recommended pain-relieving medications such as anti-seizure medications, anticonvulsants, antidepressants and opioids.4 However, these drugs don't work for everyone and may cause unwanted side effects.5

In some cases, doctors may recommend patients to undergo transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS. This particular therapy can assist with preventing pain signals from reaching the brain by delivering tiny electrical impulses to specific nerve pathways via small electrodes placed on the skin.

Although it has been deemed safe and painless, TENS may not work for all types of pain. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy, it’s better to stay on the safe side and opt for natural alternatives such as:6

CapsaicinTopical application of capsaicin cream may reduce pain sensations in some people. However, side effects such as skin irritation and a burning feeling may occur.

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) — This antioxidant can help relieve symptoms of peripheral diabetic neuropathy.

It naturally occurs in foods wherein the amino acid lysine is structurally bound to protein, such as organ meats (heart, liver and kidneys), broccoli, spinach and Brewer’s yeast, and also in Brussels sprouts, peas and tomatoes, albeit at lesser amounts.7

Acupuncture — This treatment can help relieve pain caused by diabetic neuropathy without side effects. However, remember that acupuncture won’t necessarily lead to immediate relief, and you may likely require more than one session to fully benefit from it.

Physical therapy8 Low-impact exercises like swimming can be an effective physical therapy treatment for diabetic neuropathy patients, unlike high-impact exercises that can cause the nerves to go numb.

Consult a physical therapist who understands neuropathy (diabetic or otherwise) and can guide you every step of the way to prevent further issues from developing. Just take note that physical therapy may help soothe diabetic nerve pain, but not necessarily cure it.

Before trying any of these potential treatments for diabetic neuropathy, talk to a doctor first to help you determine the type of treatment that’s ideal for your condition and aid with lowering the risk of developing side effects.

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