If you have diabetes and begin to experience extreme tingling sensations in your hands or feet, it could signal a larger problem. It could be caused by diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a disease that affects the nervous system and causes numbness or weakness. Diabetic neuropathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes. It affects 33% of U.S. diabetics over the age of 40. Here’s what you should know about the causes of this condition and your diabetic peripheral neuropathy treatment options.

What causes diabetic peripheral neuropathy?

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a condition that arises as a result of nerve damage that occurs due to diabetes. When the body’s blood sugar is poorly regulated, sharp spikes and drops in blood sugar levels can cause nerve ends to fray, resulting in diabetic peripheral neuropathy. There can also be accompanying damage to blood vessels that supply the nerves, increasing the severity of damage.

While research has not yet discovered exactly why there is such a substantial link between neuropathy and diabetes, it is likely caused by a combination of factors. In particular, damage to the nerves and blood vessels can occur when there is prolonged exposure to high blood sugar. While diabetes itself is the main risk factor for developing this condition, other risk factors include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Poor blood sugar control
  • The length of time that you have had diabetes
  • Presence of kidney disease
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Smoking habits
  • Alcohol abuse

The amount of time that you have had diabetes also matters, as those who have been newly diagnosed are less likely to have peripheral neuropathy. Poor control of blood sugar is a major factor for this and every other complication that arises from diabetes.

Kidney disease also increases your risk of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, as the kidneys are unable to process the toxins in the blood and therefore make blood sugar management more difficult. Being overweight and smoking are two other factors that increase your risk of developing diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy symptoms 

High blood sugar can damage nerve fibers throughout the body, but with diabetic neuropathy, the damage tends to occur in the legs and feet. Symptoms and complications of this condition include:

  • Pain and numbness in your extremities
  • Tingling or burning sensations
  • Weakness
  • No symptoms, followed by onset of sudden severe pain
  • Skin infection
  • Periodic sharp pain without any type of stimulation
  • Oversensitivity to touch
  • Decrease in balance, coordination, and reflexes
  • Problems with the feet, including ulcers, infections, and changes in shape
  • Problems with the digestive system, urinary tract, and cardiovascular system
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Low blood pressure
  • Urinary tract infections
  • In severe cases, loss of a limb

A person with this condition may experience some or all of these sensations before they progress to the upper extremities. Symptoms may not move to upper extremities at all.

What are the best diabetic peripheral neuropathy treatments? 

When it comes to diabetic neuropathy, early diagnosis, prevention, and treatment is crucial.

Early diagnosis

Talk to your doctor right away if you notice that there is a cut or sore on your foot that isn’t healing the way it should. You should also contact your doctor if you’re experiencing excessive burning, tingling, weakness, or other pain in your hands or fee