Can Diabetic Neuropathy Be Reversed?

What is diabetic neuropathy?

“Neuropathy” refers to any condition that damages nerve cells. These cells play a critical role in touch, sensation, and movement.

Diabetic neuropathy is damage of the nerves that’s caused by diabetes. Scientists believe that the high content of blood sugar in the blood of a person with diabetes damages nerves over time.

There are several different types of neuropathies. They include:

  • peripheral: pain and numbness in the extremities, including arms, hands, legs, feet, and toes
  • proximal: pain and numbness in the upper legs, specifically the buttocks, thighs, and hips
  • autonomic: damage to nerves of the autonomic nervous system, which control sexual response, sweating, and urinary and digestive function
  • focal: sudden loss of function in nerves causing pain and weakness of the muscles

Neuropathy is one of the common effects of diabetes. It’s estimated that 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes will develop some sort of neuropathy throughout their lives.

By 2050, it’s estimated that over 48 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with diabetes. That means in the future, anywhere from 29 to 34 million Americans could be affected by diabetic neuropathy.

Managing diabetic neuropathy

Nerve damage from diabetes can’t be reversed. This is because the body can’t naturally repair nerve tissues that have been damaged.

However, researchers are investigating methods to treat nerve damage caused by diabetes.

While you can’t reverse the damage from neuropathy, there are ways to help manage the condition, including:

  • lowering your blood sugar
  • treating nerve pain
  • regularly checking your feet to make sure they are free of injury, wounds, or infection

Managing your blood glucose is important because it can help prevent additional damage to your nerves. You can better manage your blood glucose through the following methods:

  • Avoid foods high in excess sugars, including sodas, sweetened drinks and coffees, fruit juices, and processed snacks and candy bars.
  • Eat foods high in fiber. These foods typically help keep blood sugars at a steady state.
  • Eat foods that contain healthy fats, like those from olive oil and nuts, and choose lean proteins like chicken and turkey.
  • Eat vegetables and plant-based proteins regularly, such as beans and tofu.
  • Exercise at least five times a week, 30 minutes each time. Include aerobic activity and weight training in your routine.
  • Monitor your blood sugar according to your doctor’s recommendation and record your levels. This will help you identify patterns and unusual changes in your blood sugar levels.
  • Take insulin or oral medications, such as metformin (Glucophage), as instructed by your endocrinologist or primary care doctor.

In addition to managing your blood glucose levels, it’s important to pay attention to your feet and legs. Nerves in the legs and feet can be damaged, which can lead to reduced feeling. This means that you may not notice it if you cut or injure your foot or leg.

To prevent damage to your feet or legs:

  • regularly check your feet for open wounds or sores
  • clip your toenails
  • wash your feet with soap and water regularly
  • regularly visit a podiatrist
  • avoid walking barefoot