Numbness or tingling

Diabetes can have a significant effect on how nerves function. Nerve damage (also called neuropathy) resulting in numbness and tingling in the extremities is a common complication of diabetes. Almost a quarter of people with type 2 diabetes have nerve damage at the time they are diagnosed and up to 50% will eventually develop some type of neuropathy.1,2

Understand symptoms associated with nerve damage

Numbness and tingling are signs of diabetes nerve complications involving abnormal nerve sensations and are the most common forms of nerve disorder or neuropathy associated with diabetes. They result from damage to sensory nerves, those nerves responsible for carrying signals that alert us to sensations, including pain, heat, and cold.
We don’t understand exactly what happens to cause these symptoms, but we think that the axon, the long fiber that project away from the nerve cell (called the neuron) and transmits electrical impulses, becomes damaged. Damage to axons may come from a reduction in the blood supply to the nerve cell or from harmful substances called toxins that are produced when the body metabolizes high levels of blood glucose. Axon damage results in a slowing of the speed at which an electrical impulse can travel along a nerve fiber (similar to the way in which an old electrical wire that is partially broken is no longer an efficient means of carrying electricity).

Learn more about diabetes-related nerve problems

What should I do if I experience numbness or tingling?

If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, numbness and tingling are signs that your blood glucose is not under control. Your doctor will work with you to help you control your blood glucose, using lifestyle modifications, including a healthy, calorie-appropriate eating plan, regular physical activity, and weight loss, and, if these modifications are not enough, medication.

Learn more about lifestyle modifications that I can use to help control my blood glucose.

Learn more about medications that I can use to help control my blood glucose.

Written by: Jonathan Simmons | Last reviewed: May 2014.
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