Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Nerve Pain in Diabetes


Am Fam Physician. 2016 Aug 1;94(3):online.

  See related article on diabetic peripheral neuropathy

What is nerve pain in diabetes?

Nerve pain with diabetes is called neuropathy (new-ROP-uh-thee). It is common in people with uncontrolled diabetes. It usually starts in the feet and may go up the legs. It may cause burning pain or a loss of feeling.

What causes it?

Nerves are like wires that bring feeling to your brain from other parts of the body. High blood sugar levels can damage those nerves. The longer you have high blood sugar, the more likely you are to get nerve damage. The nerves in your feet are usually the first to be damaged. Nerves in other parts of the body can be damaged, too.

How do I know if I have it?

If you have nerve damage in your feet, you will notice pain or loss of feeling. Your doctor can do tests to be sure that is what is causing the problem.

How is it treated?

If you feel pain in your feet, there are medicines and other treatments that can help. Make sure your doctor knows what other medicines you take to avoid bad reactions. If you have loss of feeling in your feet and it affects your balance, there are special shoes that can help.

What can I expect?

Medicine will lessen the pain for many patients, but most will still have some pain. It is also important to wear proper fitting shoes. And, every time you see the doctor, have the doctor check your feet for injuries you cannot feel.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


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