People with diabetes can have nerve problems. This is called diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy happens when you have high blood sugar levels over a long time. This causes damage to the nerves that go to your legs, arms, digestive tract, heart, and bladder.
The nerve damage can cause many different problems in your body.
Tingling or burning in the arms and legs may be an early sign of nerve damage. These feelings often start in your toes and feet. You may have deep pain. This often happens in the feet and legs.
Nerve damage may cause you to lose feeling in your legs and arms. Because of this, you may:
Not notice when you step on something sharp
Not know you have a blister or small wound
Not notice when you touch something too hot or too cold
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:
Light-headedness, 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 sudden fatigue, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting.
Other symptoms of nerve damage are:
Sexual problems. Men may have problems with erections. Women may have trouble with vaginal dryness or orgasm.
Have a careful foot examination when you see your health care provider. These exams can find small infections. They can also keep foot injuries from getting worse.
American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes -- 2013. Diabetes Care. 2013;36 Suppl 1:S11-S66.
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. Phildelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 33.
Nancy J. Rennert, MD, Chief of Endocrinology & Diabetes, Norwalk Hospital, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.