Got Burning Questions About Diabetic Neuropathy?

Nov 16, 2023
Got Burning Questions About Diabetic Neuropathy?

Diabetes is one of the leading chronic diseases in the United States. When left uncontrolled, a patient can have multiple complications related to the constant high sugar in the blood which can have a cascading impact on different body functions. One such complication is diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy occurs when prolonged exposure to high blood sugar damages the nerves throughout the body. These nerves are crucial for transmitting signals from the brain to various body parts, including the extremities.

There are different types of diabetic neuropathies.

Autonomic neuropathy - The autonomic nervous system controls the involuntary physiologic functions of the body. Damage to it can lead to difficulty in controlling the bladder, the body having difficulty adjusting to the change in temperature, or experiencing increased heart rate even when at rest.

Focal neuropathy - This is when you have damage to one specific nerve. The symptoms vary depending on which type of nerve has the damage. It can cause severe pain but often resolves after a few weeks to months. One example of focal neuropathy is carpal tunnel syndrome.

Proximal neuropathy - This neuropathy is rare but one of the most disabling types that usually happens to one side of the body. It can occur in the hip, buttocks, or thigh with severe pain as its common symptom.

Peripheral neuropathy - This form is the most prevalent diabetic neuropathy which typically affects both sides of the body symmetrically and primarily impacts the nerves in the feet and legs followed by the hands. For this blog, we focus on this type of diabetic neuropathy.

Recognizing the symptoms of distal symmetric peripheral neuropathy is essential for early diagnosis and management. 

  1. Tingling and Numbness: Patients often experience tingling or numbness in the feet and legs, which can gradually spread upwards.
  2. Burning Sensation: A persistent burning sensation in the affected areas is another hallmark symptom of this type of neuropathy.
  3. Loss of Sensation: Over time, patients may lose the ability to feel pain, heat, or cold in the affected extremities, increasing the risk of injury.
  4. Muscle Weakness: Weakness in the muscles of the legs and feet can lead to difficulty in walking and maintaining balance.
  5. Foot Problems: Foot problems such as ulcers and infections are common due to reduced sensation, making regular foot care crucial.

What can we do? Traditional Chinese medicine offers holistic approaches to managing the symptoms of distal symmetric peripheral neuropathy. Acupuncture, a practice involving the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body, can help in addressing the symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

  • Helps in distributing nutrients to the damaged nerves by increasing blood flow for faster healing
  • Reducing inflammation on the affected nerves for better function
  • Reducing pain by triggering signals in the body to produce it's natural analgesics
  • Helps in getting better sleep and reduces stress which can indirectly aid in restoring bodily functions

Other than acupuncture, herbal medications can also be part of the treatment plan. Patients may be given herbal teas or pills that will help in controlling blood sugar or foot soaks made from a concoction of herbs to help the distal extremities with nerve regeneration.

In conclusion, diabetic neuropathy is a significant concern for those living with diabetes. Traditional Chinese modalities like acupuncture and herbal medications can offer relief and improve the quality of life for individuals dealing with this condition. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking early intervention is crucial in order to avoid the progression of foot injuries and affecting the patient's ability to walk.

Dr. Ting Wu is a licensed acupuncturist who has helped a lot of patients with diabetic neuropathy. Book your initial appointment with her so she create a comprehensive treatment plan to manage diabetic neuropathy effectively. 


Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022). Diabetic neuropathy. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-neuropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20371580