Diabetes why does it cause nerve damage

Nerve damage and diabetes

Take care of your nerves!

Damage to the nerves is a common consequence of diabetes mellitus. They occur in one in three people with diabetes. Recognized at an early stage can prevent serious consequences and complaints.

Nerve disorders, the so-called diabetic neuropathy, can cause very unpleasant and serious complaints. The disorders can affect all organ systems in the body.

There are two main forms:

  • peripheral neuropathy - diseases of the voluntary nervous system
  • autonomic neuropathy - diseases of the autonomic nervous system


  • poorly controlled diabetes for several years with increased blood sugar levels
  • Nerve damage usually goes unnoticed for a long time. With the first noticeable complaints, there is already more severe damage.


  • Most often, the nerves of the feet and legs are damaged.
  • Sometimes the nerves in the hands and arms are damaged.
  • Pain in the affected limbs can be burning, tearing, stabbing, but also boring and dull.
  • Complaints occur preferentially in the furthest away from
    Regions distant from the trunk (toes, feet, fingers).
  • In contrast to circulatory disorders, symptoms of neuropathy are more severe at night and get better with exercise.
  • Parasitic sensations, tingling sensations such as "pins and needles", leg cramps and sometimes muscle weakness and unsteady gait
  • Accompanying symptoms such as sleep disorders or depression can occur
  • Sometimes the neuropathy is painless.

But nerve damage must also be recognized and treated at an early stage without pain. Because weakened or lacking sensitivity of the affected extremities causes pressure points, ulcers, strong calluses, injuries or burns. This can result in amputations or partial amputations of the foot going unnoticed and untreated.

Autonomous neuropathy

It can affect almost any organ system and is characterized by a wide variety of disorders. Pronounced complaints are relatively rare and usually only observed after a long time. If it is so developed that the affected diabetics have significant symptoms, their life expectancy drops by about a fifth.

You can find an overview of the complaint images in


  • good blood sugar levels
  • little alcohol
  • no obesity
  • do not smoke
  • Medical check-up

Early diagnosis

  • peripheral neuropathy:
    • Tuning fork test, testing the muscle reflexes and measuring the threshold of cold and warmth
    • Determination of the nerve conduction velocity, d. H. the electrical conductivity of the nerve fibers
  • autonomic neuropathy (depending on the organ system affected):
    • Damage to the cardiovascular system can be determined with the help of an electrocardiogram (EKG).

The early diagnosis of nerve damage in diabetes mellitus is so important because there are good treatment options today. In addition to medication, devices can also be used, for example, with which the nerves are “trained”.


  • The best treatment is good prevention (see prevention).
  • Foot care
  • modern pain therapy (medicinal, psychological)
  • electrical nerve (TENS) or medium-frequency muscle stimulation (high-tone therapy with HiToP device)
  • Distraction from the pain
  • Pain diary
  • Due to insufficient data so far, operative nerve decompression (relief) on the lower extremities, in which tissue is severed at certain narrow points in order to create more space for the nerves, is not recommended.
  • if necessary, bed rest, physiotherapy and orthopedic shoes

Source: Diabetes Health Report 2012 (p. 98 ff)