Relieving Diabetic Nerve Pain at Home

If you're living with diabetes, you know that you're at a high risk for nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy. According to the American Diabetes Association, one out of two people with diabetes has nerve damage. It causes burning sensation, numbness, stinging, tingling, and weakness and extreme pain. Diabetic neuropathy is also the leading cause of non-traumatic amputation.

Painful neuropathy is more linked to type 2 diabetes than type 1 diabetes. Factors that can increase your risk of diabetic nerve pain include aging, low cholesterol levels, obesity, and the length of time you've had diabetes. If you're suffering from diabetic nerve pain, there are effective ways to treat it. Here are eight treatments that you may want to try:

1. Control your blood glucose levels

High blood sugar damages nerve cells and is the main cause of diabetic neuropathy. The ADA reports that some people have less nerve pain when their blood glucose levels are lower. Monitor your sugar levels daily and take medication as prescribed.

2. Antidepressants

Oral medications are the first treatment choice for neuropathy specialists. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen have proven to be ineffective remedies for nerve pain, and cause serious side effects such as kidney and liver damage. Doctors are turning to other drugs, such as low-dose tricyclic antidepressants.

These drugs include amitriptyline (Elavil®), desipramine (Norpramin®) and imipramine (Tofranil®). You don't have to be suffering from depression for your doctor to prescribe them to treat this condition.

Other antidepressants your doctor may also prescribe are bupropion (Wellbutrin®), citalopram (Celexa®), or paroxetine (Paxil®). Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is approved by the FDA specifically to treat diabetic nerve pain.

3. Opioid medications

Opioids, which have similar effects as morphine, are primarily used to relieve severe pain. Common opioid drugs prescribed to treat diabetic nerve pain include oxycodone, and tramadol (Ultram®). However, they can be addictive, so your doctors are often reluctant to prescribe them.

4. Antiseizure medications

These medications that are mainly used to treat epilepsy prevent abnormal firing of the nerve cells, which helps to control diabetic nerve pain. The two most commonly-prescribed antiseizure medication for neuropathy pain are Neurontin and Lyrica.

5. Topical treatments

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, capsaicin cream, and nitrate sprays or patches help alleviate diabetic nerve pain. Lidocaine patches (Lidoderm and Lidopain) help to numb the painful area.

Last year a new topical cream for diabetic nerve pain called Neuragen® entered the market. BioMed, the manufacturer, states that Neuragen has few or no side effects and works in about five to 20 minutes to provide up to eight hours of relief. Also, in their company-led studies, Neuragen relieved nerve pain in 70 percent of patients.

6. Acetyl-l-carnitine

Studies show that this vitamin-like nutrient can effectively treat symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy, especially pain. Patients who were treated with acetyl-l-carnitine experienced significant improvements in nerve fiber numbers, regenerated nerve fiber, and vibration perception. However, they experienced the most significant improvement in their pain.

7. Insoles

Gel and padded insoles, and insoles custom made for diabetics, relieve foot pressure and reduce nerve pain caused by diabetes. A study published in Diabetes Care found that insoles also lower the risk of foot ulcers and amputation.

8. Electrical stimulation

Devices that stimulate muscles and nerves can reduce diabetic nerve pain and stimulate nerve growth. According to manufacturers of one of these devices, the Rebuilder, the device repairs peripheral nerves by waking up the dormant nerves. It restores blood flow and re-educates the nerve paths. The Rebuilder is approved by the FDA and is covered by Medicare and most other insurance companies.

Study Reference:

Journal Name: Diabetes Care,  Vol. 27 (No. 2),  pp. 474-477

Study Date: February 2004  

Study Name: Effectiveness of Different Types of Footwear Insoles for the Diabetic Neuropathic Foot: A follow-up study


Authors: Vijay Viswanathan, Sivagami Madhavan, Saraswathy Gnanasundaram, Gautham Gopalakrishna, Bhabendra Nath Das, Seena Rajasekar, and Ambady Ramachandran.