Diabetes can cause high levels of sugar in the blood which can damage fragile and delicate nerve fibers. This damage can cause numbness and debilitating pain – otherwise known as diabetic neuropathy. About half the people who suffer from diabetes will develop diabetic neuropathy, and there is no cure. Diabetic neuropathy has also been linked to digestive, urinary tract and circulatory problems.
The condition usually affects the nerves in the legs and feet, and the first symptoms are usually tingling in the toes or an injury that does not heal.
Treatments for Diabetic Neuropathy
Living with diabetic neuropathy is extremely difficult and even putting on a sock or lying under a bedsheet can be excruciatingly painful. A loss of sensation in the feet can also prevent injuries from being detected, which could lead to infections and even amputation.
The best doctors can do is prescribe drugs to relieve the pain, but these medications only reduce pain by between 30% and 50% and often have side effects that are almost as unpleasant as diabetic neuropathy. The types of drugs prescribed to treat the condition include:
- Anti-seizure drugs: Medications like pregabalin and gabapentin are used to treat seizures and epilepsy, and they can also reduce nerve pain. However, these drugs can also provoke violent behavior, increase anxiety and prompt thoughts of suicide.
- Antidepressants: While antidepressants like amitriptyline and imipramine are sometimes effective against nerve pain, they also cause dizziness, nausea and feelings of confusion.
- Serotonin inhibitors: While serotonin inhibitors like venlafaxine and duloxetine have milder side effects than other antidepressants, they still cause headaches, dizziness and insomnia.
- Opioids: Opioid pain medications like oxycodone and fentanyl are the most commonly prescribed drugs to treat pain associated with diabetic neuropathy. These substances are highly addictive and can be fatal if taken in high doses.
Home Treatments for Chronic Pain in Feet
About 20 million Americans suffer from peripheral neuropathy, and 68% of them are diabetics. While this disease is not yet fully understood and a cure seems a long way off, there are several steps that sufferers can take to slow the condition down and make it far easier to live with. The good news is that a few simple lifestyle changes and timely medical intervention can stop the disease in its tracks and reduce the chances of an amputation by as much as 85%.
If you are experiencing nerve pain and the pills your doctor prescribed are not providing the relief you seek, there are things you can do in the comfort of your own home to make your life more bearable. The alternative treatments for diabetic neuropathy include:
1. Monitor and Regulate Your Blood Sugar
Keeping blood sugar in the healthy range prevents diabetic neuropathy and stops it from getting worse. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, bringing blood sugar levels under control reduces the chances of developing diabetic neuropathy by 60%. This is something that you should take seriously because nerve damage presents no noticeable symptoms in its early stages 40% of the time. To prevent blood sugar spikes, you should test your glucose levels often, eat healthy food and exercise regularly.
2. Eat Healthier Food
Improvements to your diet can have a profound impact on the quality of your life, and they can also greatly reduce nerve pain. The vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in healthy foods play crucial roles, and the more of them you get, the better. Avoid processed foods whenever you can and follow a predominantly plant-based whole food diet that is high in fiber.
This positive change to your diet will give your body the nutrients it needs, help in controlling your blood sugar levels and ease the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. There are also some nutrients that are especially important, and you should take supplements if you are not getting enough. They include:
- Vitamin B complex: Vitamin B12 protects nerves and Vitamin B6 is used by the brain to send signals around the body.
- Vitamin D: Our bodies produce vitamin D from sunlight, but few people get enough. Researchers have linked low levels of vitamin D with higher levels of nerve pain. If you take between 600 and 800 IU of vitamin D each day, you should notice pain reductions after about two months.
- Alpha-lipoic acid: Your body produces enough of this nutrient for normal functioning, but higher levels have been linked with lower blood sugar levels and less pain. Diabetic neuropathy patients who took 600 milligrams of alpha-lipoic acid every day saw their symptoms improve by 19% after just five weeks.
3. Use Capsaicin
Capsaicin is the chemical that gives chili peppers their fiery reputation, and it is also one of the most potent natural treatments for diabetic neuropathy pain. When the efficacy of capsaicin was studied, researchers discovered that it reduced pain levels by about a third in only two weeks. The best part is that you do not have to visit a doctor to get capsaicin as creams or patches can be purchased over the counter or ordered online. If the capsaicin products available at your local drugs store do not work as well as you would like, you can get a prescription for a more potent patch.
4. Take a Warm Bath
Soaking in a hot bath is one of the most relaxing treatments for diabetic neuropathy in feet and can reduce nerve pain almost immediately. This is because exposing the body to warm water improves blood circulation and relieves numbness. You should bear in mind that nerves damaged by diabetic neuropathy become less sensitive to temperature, so make sure the water is not too hot.
5. Avoid Toxins
The pesticides sprayed on the foods we eat and the chemicals in common household cleaning products can accumulate in the blood, damage kidneys and hamper blood circulation. This is something to be concerned about because nerves are more likely to be damaged when they do not get enough nutrients from blood. Smoking is something that should definitely be avoided as it reduces oxygen levels and constricts blood vessels. Studies show that diabetics who smoke are more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes and more likely to develop diabetic neuropathy.6. Exercise Moderately
Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day can keep your blood sugar levels under control, improve your blood flow and lower your stress levels. These are all good things if you are coping with nerve pain. When the effects of exercise on diabetic neuropathy patients were studied in 2012, researchers found that regular moderate activities like cycling or walking reduced neuropathic symptoms and eased pain significantly. These findings suggest that taking a brisk walk each day is one of the best natural treatments for diabetic neuropathy.
7. Take it Easy
While there are a number of new treatments for diabetic neuropathy, few of them are as effective as calming down and taking it easy. Stress and anxiety make pain worse, but meditation, bonding with a pet, spending time with friends and family and devoting time to hobbies are all natural stress relievers that can reduce pain and are sometimes as effective as antidepressant drugs.
8. Take Care of Your Feet
When the nerves in your feet are damaged, you may not notice cuts, scrapes or blisters right away. This can lead to more serious problems like ulcers, infections and even more pain. That is why you should take good care of your feet and check them every day and pay particular attention to skin folds where bacteria hides. You should also wear comfortable shoes that support and cushion your feet.
A Light Therapy Breakthrough
A new breakthrough technology promises to be one of the best alternative treatments for Diabetic Neuropathy in your feet. That would be Light Therapy Foot Relief, available now through Bright Health.
The device uses 880nm Infrared Light (invisible to the human eye), combined with 660nm Red Light, to reach deep into muscles and tendons to increase circulation, oxygenation, cellular repair and cellular reproduction.
By increasing blood flow and facilitating the growth of new capillaries, Light Therapy relieves the pain associated with Diabetic Neuropathy and many other chronic pain conditions. Additional benefits include an increased rate of injury recovery and wound healing.