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Healtheuniversity > English > Diabetes College > Treat Diabetes > Health Problems with Diabetes > Nerves


What Can Happen?

Nerves send messages to and from your brain and body. Arteries feed your nerves so they can function as they should. Diabetes can damage the arteries that supply your nerves. This damage to your arteries can lead to damage to your nerves.

For example, nerves in your fingers send messages about touch and temperature. The messages are sent to your brain. If your nerves are damaged, you will lose this feeling. Losing feeling to your hands and feet is called peripheral neuropathy.

When nerves are damaged, many problems happen. Some problems are:

  • injury to your hands and feet due to loss of feeling.
  • your stomach takes longer to digest food.
  • problems controlling your blood pressure when changing body positions (such as, from lying down to standing up).
  • you do not notice signs of low blood sugar or heart attack. Your doctor will tell you if you do not show signs. In this case you will need to monitor your blood sugar so that you can treat a low blood sugar when it happens.
  • problems with getting an erection (called erectile dysfunction).
  • problems with vaginal dryness or reaching orgasm.

What Can I Do?

  • It is important to control your blood sugar. This can prevent or delay nerve damage.
  • Pay close attention for signs of nerve damage. Talk to your doctor if you notice any signs listed below. The most common signs of nerve damage are:
    • numbness
    • tingling
    • pain
    • burning
    • loss of feeling
  • Check your hands and feet every day for signs of infection. Be aware of what feels "normal for you".  If you notice any change, talk to your doctor.

Signs of Nerve Damage

  • Fingers and Toes (most common): If you feel numbness, tingling, pain or burning in your fingers and toes.
  • Heart: If your heart beats too fast when you're sitting. May only feel mild signs or none at all of a heart attack.
  • Signs of low blood sugar: If you cannot feel common signs of low blood sugar. Such as shakiness or nervousness.
  • Blood Pressure: If you are dizzy or feel faint when you stand up. This can be from low blood pressure.
  • Digesting food: If you:
    • feel bloated
    • feel you're always full
    • feel nauseous
    • have vomited
    • have diarrhea
    • cannot poop (constipation)
  • Sex organs: In men, if you have trouble getting an erection. In women, if you have vaginal dryness or if you have trouble having an orgasm.
  • Bladder: If you cannot fully empty your bladder. If you have urinary tract infections often.
  • Sweat glands: If you cannot sweat or control your body temperature in warm weather.

Take Action

  • Check your feet every day.
  • See your doctor if you notice signs of infection or nerve damage.
  • Learn how your body responds to food. Talk to your doctor for help. 
    • For example, you should notice when you have low blood sugar. If you cannot, check your blood sugar more often. This will help you know your body better.
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Last Reviewed: 10/16/2016