Those who have diabetes can develop diabetic peripheral neuropathy – a type of nerve damage characterized by numbness, tingling, and pain in their hands, fingers, feet, and toes.
This long-term problem occurs if people don’t control their condition effectively and if their blood sugar levels stay high for many years.
This condition can interfere with one’s daily activities, sleep, and overall well-being. It can even lead to depression. This is because the pain can increase so much that it becomes unbearable. Even the softest touch can be painful so this might affect even one’s walking.
So, what to do to reduce the symptoms and prevent the pain from worsening?
There are several prescription medications that can help alleviate nerve pain, but they come with certain side effects. Plus, researchers explain they can reduce the pain only by 30-50%.
Besides medications such as pain-killers and over-the-counter creams, people can also take certain supplements and adopt several alternative treatments.
We explain all this and more, so read on to learn more about the treatment.
Even though people can’t fix the damaged nerves, there’s something they can do to prevent further damaging and alleviate the pain and other symptoms.
The first thing to do is start monitoring their blood sugar levels. People may want to ask their doctor to help them learn how to monitor correctly as well as set their blood sugar goal. Then, they have to make certain lifestyle changes and adopt certain habits to control their blood sugar levels properly.
The best way to control blood sugar levels is through a combination of several factors:
Do low-impact exercises such as swimming. On the other hand, high-impact exercises can only worsen nerve numbness.
Still, people might want to consult a trusted physical therapist to choose the right physical therapy methods for their condition, as well as prevent additional nerve damage.
Another option is capsaicin cream (Zostrix, Arthricare). It can relieve the pain and burning sensation of nerve damage thanks to the active ingredient in hot peppers – capsaicin. It can also be found as a patch, jelly, or lotion.
Apply some of the cream to the affected area and rub it gently. The cayenne cream provides temporary nerve pain relief.
The journal Pain published a research which shows wearing capsaicin patch for two weeks can alleviate the pain by 30 percent. However, some people might be allergic to capsaicin, so make sure to consult a doctor before using capsaicin cream.
Also, avoid excessive sunlight exposure when having capsaicin lotion or cream applied on the skin.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield in Britain discovered that neuropathy patients with lower levels of vitamin D experienced stronger pain than those with normal levels.
Since the recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 to 800 IU, it’s hard to obtain it only through food. Therefore, people can take it as a supplement. In fact, a study discovered that taking vitamin D supplement once per week for 2 months reduced the symptoms of those with neuropathy.
Vitamin B is vital for the nerve health. For instance, lack of vitamin B12 can cause nerve damage, whereas vitamin 6 stimulates the production of certain brain chemicals which send information throughout the body. If the levels of these chemicals is low, it can worsen the nerve pain.
Besides consuming vitamin B-rich foods, people can also take it as a supplement. But first, consult their doctor.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid is an antioxidant naturally found in our body. However, the human’s body doesn’t produce enough of it. Larger doses of this antioxidant can help ease nerve pain and regulate blood sugar levels.
One research showed that taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day for five weeks can reduce the symptoms of neuropathy by 19%. In the long run, this antioxidant can prevent further nerve damage.
Wash the feet with warm water and mild soap, but make sure to dry them thoroughly afterward. Then, apply some lotion but avoid the area between toes since it’s most prone to fungal infections.
Smoking constricts the blood vessels, thus impairing the blood flow. In other words, the peripheral nerves can’t get the necessary nutrient-high blood, resulting in more nerve pain.
Therefore, we highly recommend to stop or at least avoid smoking for those who have nerve pain.
Stress worsens inflammation and all kinds of complications due to the condition. People should find the right relaxation technique that helps reduce stress, thus alleviating neuropathy symptoms.
Some of them are meditation, exercise, yoga, doing outdoor activities such as walking in nature with friends or playing some sport. Find what works for best and practice it to manage the stress levels.
Pay attention to any visible signs of nerve damage to the hands, feet, legs, and skin. That might be sores, blisters, ulcers, or other sign of injury. The American Diabetes Association says skin care and foot care is important for preventing and treating neuropathy.
Therefore, make sure to wash the feet, toenails, and skin carefully every day. Focus on skin folds prone to moisture and bacteria build-up to prevent infections.
Also, wear clean clothing and socks, and stay away from warm showers and hot temperatures. Don’t forget to file corns and cut the toenails regularly. Consult a doctor in case of any swelling, redness, or infection starting.
Some researchers say capsaicin cream can help in this condition, but be cautious since sometimes it might cause skin irritation and burning.