Patients’ Guide to Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic Neuropathy Causes

What Leads to Diabetic Nerve Pain

Researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes diabetic neuropathy, although they have some clues. The biggest clue is that diabetic neuropathy is influenced by blood glucose levels and control.

In 1993, a major study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine that showed that controlling blood glucose levels can help prevent diabetes complications, such as neuropathy. That study very conclusively showed intensive insulin therapy to control blood glucose levels led to lower rates of diabetes complications; this was a long-term study done over the span of nearly seven years1.

However, researchers don’t entirely understand how elevated blood glucose levels affect the nerves; they just know that there seems to be a connection between poor glucose control and the development of diabetic neuropathy.

It’s possible that elevated blood glucose levels damage the tiny blood vessels that lead to the nerves. If the blood vessels are damaged, they don’t bring oxygen and nutrients to the nerves as they should, which eventually can cause nerve damage.

There are some other factors that may lead to the development of diabetic neuropathy:

  • Age: Diabetic neuropathy takes time to develop, so it’s much more common in older people who have had diabetes for 25 years or more.
  • Lifestyle choices: It seems that alcohol and smoking make the symptoms of neuropathy worse.
  • Nerve injury: Whether your nerves have been damaged through inflammation or through a mechanical injury (such as nerve compression associated with carpal tunnel syndrome), it’s possible the previously-damaged nerves are more susceptible to developing diabetic neuropathy.

However the nerves get damaged, the end result is the same: they aren’t able to convey messages as well as they should to the brain, and they lose their ability to help you feel and move.