Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication in people living with diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy self care tips can include controlling blood sugars, exercising, and getting sufficient sleep.

Diabetic neuropathy is a potential complication of diabetes. It occurs when persistently high blood sugar levels cause damage to nerves, leading to pain, tingling, and numbness in various parts of the body.

Although it might not always be possible to prevent neuropathy, a person with diabetic neuropathy might be able to minimize their symptoms by taking some precautions and making lifestyle adjustments. They can also benefit from consulting a doctor about which options may be suitable for them.

In this article, we discuss self-care tips for diabetic neuropathy and explain when a person should consider contacting a doctor.

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Diabetic neuropathy describes nerve damage that may occur in people with diabetes. Over time, high blood glucose levels and high levels of fats, such as triglycerides, can damage nerves. Without treatment, diabetic neuropathy can lead to further complications, such as ulcers and amputation.

A person may experience different symptoms, depending on the type of diabetic neuropathy. The four main types of diabetic neuropathy are:

  • Peripheral neuropathy: This type typically affects the nerves in the legs and feet, but it may also sometimes affect those in the arms and hands. This type of neuropathy is very common, affecting up to one-half of people with diabetes.
  • Autonomic neuropathy: This type describes damage to the nerves that control the internal organs, contributing to involuntary bodily functions. It can lead to problems relating to the digestive system, sweat glands, sex organs, bladder, eyes, heart rate, and blood pressure. A person may also experience hypoglycemia unawareness.
  • Focal neuropathy: This type usually involves damage to a single nerve, and it is most likely to affect a nerve in the leg, torso, hand, or head. The most common focal neuropathies are entrapment syndromes, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Proximal neuropathy: This type of diabetic neuropathy is rare and involves damage to the nerves in the thigh, buttock, or hip. The damage usually affects one side of the body, but it may spread to the other side. After the symptoms begin, they typically worsen but then improve after a period of months or years.

Preventing diabetic neuropathy entirely is not always possible, but a person can take certain steps to help alleviate the pain.

Managing blood sugar

Controlling blood sugar levels and keeping them within target ranges can significantly reduce the risk of diabetic neuropathy. By keeping blood sugar levels in a suitable range, a person can prevent or delay damage to the nerves from hyperglycemia.

Checking the feet regularly

A person with diabetes should check their feet frequently to ensure that they spot any signs or symptoms of nerve damage or other complications of diabetes. It is also important that they care for their feet, which may involve washing and moisturizing the feet, avoiding going barefoot, and wearing well-fitting shoes.

Nerve damage and poor circulation can result in many problems with the feet. In the most severe cases, a doctor may need to amputate a person’s foot if it is not receiving a sufficient supply of blood.


Exercise can help a person manage their blood glucose levels and boost blood circulation. As such, physical activity may help reduce and prevent the development of diabetic neuropathy and its symptoms. Exercise can also be a beneficial strategy for helping a person maintain a moderate weight, which is important for many aspects of health.

Following a balanced dietary plan

A healthy eating pattern is beneficial for health, and it can also help people control their blood sugar levels and maintain a moderate weight. A 2020 systematic review highlights that incorporating plant-based foods into a person’s diet may help with pain management and glycemic control and reduce the need for medications. However, further research is still necessary to confirm these findings.

Quitting smoking

Smoking can result in a wide range of health problems and increase the risk of complications, such as diabetic neuropathy. A 2019 review highlights that cigarette smoke might exacerbate diabetic neuropathy through the mechanism of oxidative stress. As such, a healthcare professional may recommend that a person with diabetes quit smoking.

Having massages

Massages can help stimulate blood circulation. A 2019 study suggests that massages can not only help lower glucose levels in the bloodstream but also improve symptoms of neuropathic pain. A 2015 study indicates that Thai foot massage may be a viable alternative treatment option for those with diabetic neuropathy.

Avoiding prolonged pressure

Prolonged pressure can cause ligaments and tendons to swell. It is important to avoid repetitive or frequent application of pressure to the body, such as leg crossing, as this constant pressure may lead to nerve damage.

Taking warm baths

A 2020 study suggests that a warm salt water bath could be an effective option for those experiencing pain due to neuropathy. After the bath, a person should thoroughly dry their skin and apply moisturizer to keep it healthy. It is also important to ensure that a person uses warm, not hot, water so that they can avoid burns and damage to the skin.

Getting good quality sleep

A person with diabetic neuropathy may experience sleep disturbances, depending on the type of neuropathy they have. As such, it is advisable to avoid certain sleeping positions to prevent compression of the nerves and subsequent discomfort. Some medications, such as anticonvulsants, may also help relieve pain during sleep.

Avoiding or limiting alcohol

Consuming alcohol may increase the pain and other symptoms that a person with diabetic neuropathy experiences. Nerves are very sensitive to alcohol, and drinking can increase the feeling of numbness, pain, burning, and tingling.

Learn more about alcohol-induced neuropathy.

Taking medications

Doctors may suggest taking some medications to help control the symptoms. Alongside medications to manage blood sugar, other options can include anticonvulsants, such as pregabalin and gabapentin, and antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and duloxetine.

A person with diabetes should contact a doctor or neurologist if a wound on their feet is not getting better or they experience symptoms of neuropathy, such as tingling, pain, or loss of sensation in the feet, weakness, or loss of balance. Usually, diagnosing diabetic neuropathy in its early stages can help limit damage to the nerves and prevent progression.

Similarly, a person with a diagnosis of neuropathy should contact a doctor if their symptoms worsen. The doctor will be able to offer advice on how to treat and manage discomfort.

Diabetic neuropathy refers to nerve damage that results from diabetes. It is a common complication of diabetes resulting from persistently high blood sugar levels.

Although the condition can cause discomfort, self-care measures can help alleviate pain. The options include controlling blood sugars, regularly checking the feet for wounds, and receiving massages.