Can Diabetic Neuropathy Be Reversed?

Medically Reviewed by: Scientific Advisory Board

If you're one of the millions of people affected by diabetic neuropathy, you may have googled "Can Diabetic Neuropathy be reversed?". Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage caused by prolonged high blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. It usually affects the feet and legs, leading to tingling, numbness, and sharp pain, but can also impact other areas of the body. While there's no denying the importance of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, we'll explore the possibility of reversing this damage.

can diabetic neuropathy be reversed

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to whether neuropathy can be reversed or not, as it depends on the severity of the condition and the individual. There have been instances where people with less severe forms of diabetic neuropathy have experienced improvement in their symptoms after strict control of blood sugar levels. However, in cases where the damage is extensive and long-standing, reversing neuropathy might not be possible.

It's essential to work closely with your healthcare team to devise a comprehensive treatment plan. A combination of strict blood sugar management, medication, and lifestyle changes may help slow down or halt the progression of diabetic neuropathy. Remember, the focus should be on preventing further damage and managing existing symptoms for an improved quality of life.

Understanding Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that occurs in individuals with diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage nerves throughout the body, and diabetic neuropathy often affects the legs and feet. Before diving into whether this condition can be reversed, it's essential to comprehend the different types of diabetic neuropathy:

  • Peripheral neuropathy: The most common form, impacting feet, legs, hands, and arms.
  • Autonomic neuropathy: Affects automatic bodily functions, including digestion, heart rate, and blood pressure.
  • Proximal neuropathy: Causes pain and weakness in the hips, thighs, or buttocks.
  • Focal neuropathy: Results in sudden, severe pain in a specific area or group of nerves.

The risk of experiencing diabetic neuropathy increases the longer someone has diabetes. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), about 50% of individuals with diabetes have some form of nerve damage.

Below is a table that demonstrates some essential statistics related to diabetic neuropathy:

Statistic Percentage
People with diabetes who are at risk of diabetic neuropathy 60-70%
People with type 1 diabetes who develop diabetic neuropathy 25-30%
People with type 2 diabetes who develop diabetic neuropathy 30-50%

There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing diabetic neuropathy:

  • High blood sugar levels
  • Duration of diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Low levels of insulin
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Poor blood circulation

To manage diabetic neuropathy effectively, it's crucial to maintain blood sugar levels within the target range, adjust medications as needed, and embrace lifestyle changes. Some habits that can help reduce the impact of diabetic neuropathy include:

While the main focus of our article is to examine whether diabetic neuropathy can be reversed, it's essential to understand the various forms and underlying risk factors. By grasping this foundational knowledge, we'll be better equipped to address the central question and provide critical information for those suffering from diabetic neuropathy.

Potential Reversal Through Lifestyle Changes

Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes, affecting up to 50% of people with the condition. Although managing blood sugar levels can help prevent or slow the progression of neuropathy, many wonder if it's possible to reverse the damage already done. Lifestyle changes are one approach that might help with this challenge. Here, we'll examine how certain adjustments can potentially contribute to the reversal of diabetic neuropathy.

Physical activity is the first critical step to addressing neuropathy. Incorporating regular exercise into your routine can improve blood sugar control, boost circulation, and enhance nerve health. We recommend:

  • Walking for 30 minutes on most days
  • Resistance training at least twice a week
  • Flexibility exercises, like yoga or tai chi

Eating a balanced diet plays an essential role as well. By consuming a mix of healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, you can support better blood sugar control and prevent further nerve damage. Some tips to consider include:

  • Select whole-grain carbohydrates over refined varieties
  • Incorporate lean protein sources, like fish and poultry
  • Choose unsaturated fats, such as avocados and nuts
  • Load up on vegetables and high-fiber fruits

Maintaining a healthy weight is another crucial component. Excess weight can make blood sugar control more difficult, so shedding any extra pounds can be beneficial in improving neuropathy symptoms. Consult a healthcare professional for personalized weight management advice and strategies.

Furthermore, quitting smoking and moderating alcohol consumption can both greatly contribute to better overall health and improve neuropathy. Smoking is known to decrease blood flow, while excessive alcohol intake can cause vitamin deficiencies, both of which exacerbate nerve damage.

Here is a summary of the key lifestyle changes:

Change Potential Benefit
Physical activity Improved circulation, blood sugar control, and nerve health
Balanced diet Better blood sugar control and nerve protection
Healthy weight Easier blood sugar management and symptom relief
Quitting smoking Enhanced blood flow and nerve healing
Moderating alcohol Prevention of vitamin deficiencies and further nerve damage

By implementing these lifestyle changes, it's possible to improve diabetic neuropathy symptoms significantly. However, it's essential to note that everyone's body reacts differently, and not all neuropathy sufferers will see complete reversal. That being said, adopting these healthier habits will undoubtedly benefit your overall well-being and potentially help mitigate the negative impacts of diabetes.

Medical Treatments and Therapies

Diabetic neuropathy can be a challenging condition to manage, but various medical treatments and therapies aim to alleviate symptoms and slow down disease progression. We're going to cover a few of these options available to patients:

Medications are among the most common treatments that help manage diabetic neuropathy symptoms. These include:

  • Pain relievers such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. ibuprofen) and prescription medications like gabapentinpregabalin, and duloxetine
  • Antidepressants which can help with nerve pain relief, like amitriptyline and nortriptyline
  • Anticonvulsants for controlling pain-related symptoms, like carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine
  • CRESTOR or Rosuvastatin Calcium to help reduce LDL cholesterol and prevent plaque buildup in blood vessels

Physical therapy is beneficial for patients experiencing muscle weakness or mobility issues due to diabetic neuropathy. We recommend incorporating exercises that focus on:

  • Strengthening muscles
  • Improving balance
  • Enhancing flexibility

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) refers to the use of low-voltage electrical currents to manage pain. These sessions usually last for about 30 minutes and can be repeated multiple times during the day.

Blood sugar control is a vital part of managing diabetic neuropathy. A well-maintained blood sugar level can help prevent progression, and it's achieved through:

  • A balanced diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Proper medications
Parameter Target Range
Fasting blood sugar 80-130 mg/dL
Post-meal blood sugar < 180 mg/dL
HbA1c < 7%

For severe and unresponsive cases, surgical treatments may be considered, such as:

  • Nerve decompression surgery: a procedure to release pressure on specific nerves that may alleviate pain
  • Spinal cord stimulation: involves implanting a device that sends electrical signals to the spinal cord reducing pain signals

It's important to note that while we can't eliminate diabetic neuropathy entirely, these medical treatments and therapies can significantly improve a patient's quality of life. Consulting with your healthcare provider is crucial. They can help customize an individualized treatment plan for better management of diabetic neuropathy symptoms.

Conclusion: Can Diabetic Neuropathy Be Reversed?

Ultimately, it's essential to face the question many people have: can diabetic neuropathy be reversed? While some studies show promising results with certain lifestyle changes and treatments, complete reversal of diabetic neuropathy remains a challenge.

Promising Lifestyle Changes & Treatments

We have seen that specific lifestyle changes and treatments can help manage symptoms, slow down the progression, and provide some relief. The beneficial methods include:

Partial Reversal Versus Complete Reversal

However it's important to differentiate between partial reversal and complete reversal of diabetic neuropathy. Partial reversal may be achievable with appropriate care and dedication; this means that symptoms could improve or diminish, but some damage to the nerves may remain. Complete reversal, on the other hand, would imply that the nerves have entirely healed, which is unfortunately not yet a known feasible outcome.

The emphasis should be on managing blood glucose levels and adopting a healthy lifestyle to prevent the progression of diabetic neuropathy. Early detection and intervention are crucial components for managing this condition successfully.

Future Research

We believe that continued research in this area is essential, and we hope to see breakthroughs that may lead to effective methods for the complete reversal of diabetic neuropathy in the future. As we discover new treatments and develop a better understanding of diabetes and its complications, it is possible that advances in medical science may yield new hope for those suffering from diabetic neuropathy.

In conclusion, while complete reversal is not currently possible, managing diabetic neuropathy and improving one's quality of life is achievable through proper care and lifestyle changes. We encourage everyone affected by this condition to stay informed and proactive in their self-care, and to remain hopeful for new developments in the future.

References, Studies and Sources: 

More About and Healthcare disclaimer:

Always consult your physician before beginning any program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. If you experience any pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. socks are clinically proven to improve micro-circulation in feet and lower extremities in people with Diabetes. 


More Author Information:

Dr. Capozzi is a board-certified foot surgeon through the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery. He is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Wound Management and Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. He completed a three-year residency program in Foot and Ankle Reconstructive Surgery at St. Francis Hospital & Medical Center in Hartford, CT in 2010. Dr. Capozzi is a board-certified Wound Specialist® granted by the American Academy of Wound Management. He is also board-certified in Foot Surgery through the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery.