Around 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes develop some sort of neuropathy (nerve damage) according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Those with the highest risk of developing diabetic neuropathy are those with problems controlling their blood sugar and those who have had diabetes for at least 25 years. Symptoms of nerve damage can include numbness, tingling, or pain in the toes, feet, hands, arms, and fingers. This can disrupt your daily life, so it’s important to learn ways to manage these symptoms. Damaged nerves can’t be repaired, but they can be cared for and further damage may be prevented. Explore some of these treatment options for handling tingling and pain in your hands and feet:
Over-the-counter medicines. If your neuropathy isn’t extremely unmanageable, your doctor may suggest your try a low dose of an over-the-counter pain reliever for a short time.
Antidepressants. If your pain is intense, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants to interfere with chemicals in your brain that enable you to feel pain. Tricyclics, a class of antidepressants including amitriptyline, imipramine, clomipramine, desipramine, and nortriptyline, have been shown to help relieve pain from nerve damage. Tricyclics can have difficult side effects like dry mouth, fatigue, and sweating, so you could also try selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), although there’s less proof they can relieve nerve tingling and pain.
Anti-seizure medications. Research shows that gabapentin and pregabalin, drugs generally used for patients with epilepsy, can provide moderate pain relief from nerve damage.
Opioids. These drugs are incredibly strong and should only be used as a last resort for nerve pain management. They should not be used for more than a short period of time because they are highly addictive. Opioids are very effective, but can cause side effects such as restlessness, depression, confusion, and personality changes.
Capsaicin cream can help manage pain in your hands and feet from diabetic neuropathy. Capsaicin comes in a cream, lotion, jelly, or patch applied directly to the skin where your nerve pain is strongest.
To keep healthy activity in your life, improve your range of motion, and potentially relieve neuropathy pain and tingling, focus on doing low-impact exercises. High-impact exercise may only exacerbate your pain. Try exercises like walking, bicycling, and swimming to help ease pain.
You may also consider working with a physical therapist to find small exercises you can do daily to help decrease your diabetic neuropathy symptoms. Ask your healthcare provider to recommend a physical therapist who is familiar with neuropathy.
Even if you can’t reverse nerve damage, you can prevent further nerve damage. Developing diabetic neuropathy should be a wakeup call to improve your diabetes management. Healthline recommends working with your doctor or a Certified Diabetes Educator to:
- Set blood sugar goals and learn how to track them
- Use diet and exercise to keep blood sugar in a healthy range
- Monitor health risks like weight and smoking that can exacerbate your condition
Practicing good hand and foot care can help prevent you from developing cuts, sores, or swelling that can get infected and become serious complications. Wash your hands and feet with warm water each day and keep them well moisturized. Examine your feet and hands regularly for cuts, sores, and swelling that you may have been unable to feel due to neuropathy. Find shoes that are comfortable and flexible so you don’t develop any blisters or additional foot pain. You may also consider some cozy non-slip socks or slippers to wear around the house to prevent foot injury when you aren’t wearing shoes.
Talk to your doctor
Diabetic neuropathy is common, but can become serious. Always report any pain, numbness, or tingling you are feeling to your healthcare provider. Even if there isn’t a cure, there are treatments that can help you live your daily life with little pain.
What method have you found for managing tingling and pain from diabetic neuropathy? Share in the comments below.