People with diabetes can have nerve problems. This condition is called diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy can happen when you have high blood sugar levels over a long time. This causes damage to the nerves that go to your:
The nerve damage can cause many different problems in your body.
Diabetic neuropathy - self-care
Tingling or burning in the feet and legs may be an early sign of nerve damage. These feelings often start in your toes and feet, but can also start in the fingers and hands. You may also have deep pain. Some people may have very sweaty or very dry feet from nerve damage.
Nerve damage may cause you to lose feeling in your feet and legs. Because of this, you may:
Not notice when you step on something sharp
Not know you have a blister or small wound on your toes
Not notice when you touch something too hot or too cold
Make it more likely to bump your toes or feet against objects
Can cause the joints in your feet to become damaged which can make it harder to walk
Can change the muscles in your feet which can cause increased pressure on your toes and balls of your feet
Can make it more likely for you to have infections of the skin on your feet
People with diabetes may have problems digesting food. These problems can make your diabetes harder to control. Symptoms of this problem are:
Feeling full after eating only a small amount of food
Heartburn and bloating
Nausea, constipation, or diarrhea
Throwing up undigested food several hours after a meal
Heart-related problems may include:
Lightheadedness, or even fainting, when sitting or standing up
Rapid heart rate
Neuropathy may "hide" angina. This is the warning chest pain for heart disease and heart attack. People with diabetes should learn other warning signs of a heart attack. They are:
Shortness of breath
Other symptoms of nerve damage are:
Sexual problems. Men may have problems with erections. Women may have trouble with vaginal dryness or orgasm.
Brownlee M, Aiello LP, Cooper ME, et al. Complications of diabetes mellitus. In: Mehmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 33.
Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.