Patients’ Guide to Diabetic Neuropathy

Blood Glucose Control: The Best Treatment for Diabetic Neuropathy

The best way to treat diabetic neuropathy (also called diabetic nerve pain) is to keep tight control on your blood glucose levels. This is, in fact, the only way to slow the progression of nerve damage. Out-of-control blood glucose levels cause diabetic neuropathy, so it makes sense that keeping your blood glucose in an acceptable range can help you avoid nerve damage or stop it from getting worse.

You are familiar with the drill of how to control your blood glucose: eat right, exercise, take your diabetes medication, and monitor your blood sugar (blood glucose) levels throughout the day.

Eat Right

Your doctor and/or diabetes educator will help you figure out a healthy diet that works for you-one that makes it easier to control your blood glucose and keep your hemoglobin A1c in the correct range. (To learn more about the hemoglobin A1c level—sometimes called the glycosylated hemoglobin or glycol hgb—please see below. With full awareness of the carbohydrates, fat, and protein in your diet, you'll be better able to avoid severe swings from hypoglycemia to hyperglycemia. You'll also be able to better maintain a healthy weight.

Read this article on the diabetic diet and what you should be eating. It has information on how many carbohydrates you should eat a day and how to count them.

Exercise

Exercise can lower your blood glucose level, and it should make it easier to control it. In fact, exercise increases your insulin sensitivity: after you exercise, you don’t need as much insulin to help process carbohydrates.

Additionally, there are all the traditional benefits of exercise:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better heart health
  • Better control of weight
  • Leaner, stronger muscles
  • More energy

 

Diabetes Medication—Including Insulin

Insulin is a hormone that’s normally produced by the body, but for people with diabetes, it’s either not working as it should (the case in type 2 diabetes) or the body has stopped making it (type 1 diabetes).
 
People with diabetes may need to take insulin to keep their blood glucose levels in a healthy range—important for preventing diabetic neuropathy.
 
Insulin helps your body use glucose appropriately. You can read all about the role of insulin in this article that explains how insulin helps control the blood glucose level.
 
Insulin is absolutely vital for patients with type 1 diabetes; some people with type 2 diabetes can effectively control their blood glucose levels without it by taking medicine that either increases the body’s ability to make insulin or the effectiveness of insulin. Because diabetes is a progressive disease, it’s common for people with type 2 diabetes to need to add medicines over time to keep glucose levels in check.
 

Blood Glucose Monitoring

You have to watch your blood glucose levels throughout the day in order to know how much insulin you should be taking. At the very least, you should check your blood glucose level four times a day: before each meal and before bedtime.

Keeping tabs on your blood glucose helps you know if you need to readjust insulin or your meals in order to keep your level in a healthy range.

Another important part of blood glucose monitoring is the hemoglobin A1c test, which will give you an idea of your average blood glucose levels over the past three months. The daily monitoring helps you adjust on a moment-to-moment basis; the hemoglobin A1c test lets you know how well you’re doing overall.

To learn more about blood glucose monitoring, read this article on how to control your blood glucose levels.

View Sources
  • American Diabetes Association.  Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2009. Diabetes Care. 2009;32:S13-61.
  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse website.  Diabetic Neuropathies:  The Nerve Damage of Diabetes.  Available at:  http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/neuropathies/.  Accessed March 27, 2009.