Diabetic Autonomic Neuropathy: Crucial Information and Management Tips

Medically Reviewed by:Scientific Advisory Board

Diabetic autonomic neuropathy (DAN) may sound complex condition, but we're here to break it down for you. With this article, we aim to provide reliable information that makes living with and managing diabetic autonomic neuropathy more manageable.


This condition, like its name suggests, is an unfortunate sequel to prolonged or poorly managed diabetes. It affects the nerves responsible for controlling certain automatic tasks in our body — things we don't typically think about regulating ourselves, like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and temperature regulation, for instance.

For many of us, the early onset of diabetic autonomic neuropathy goes unnoticed because symptoms can be subtle or overlooked as unrelated issues. That's why it's crucial to understand what it is, recognize the signs, and know the ways to prevent or manage it. Let's dive into the specifics, together.

Understanding Diabetic Autonomic Neuropathy

Getting to grips with diabetic autonomic neuropathy (DAN) begins with understanding its roots. It's a type of nerve damage that affects individuals living with diabetes. Consistent high blood sugar is the main culprit behind DAN. Prolonged exposure to excessive glucose levels can damage the nerves particularly those that control the heart and blood vessels, the digestive system, the urinary tract, the sex organs, and the sweat glands.

Let's get technical for a moment! Autonomic nerves maintain the systematic functioning of our body, controlling vital operations like blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose level. Diabetic autonomic neuropathy primarily involves these nerves and disturbs our body's internal balance.

The symptoms vary on the basis of the nerves affected, ranging from issues with digestion, changes in heart rate, blood pressure fluctuations, to problems with sexual function. Our body's capacity to adapt to physical changes like sitting, standing, or exercising can also get impaired due to DAN.

Chances of developing DAN increase with the duration and type of diabetes. If we look at the numbers:

Type of Diabetes Years of Having Diabetes Chances of Developing DAN
Type 1 20 years 50%
Type 2 15-20 years 75%

Managing blood sugar levels is the first step to prevent or slow the progression of DAN. And the key prevention strategies include:

  • Keeping your glucose levels in check
  • Following a balanced diet
  • Engaging in regular physical activities
  • Avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol consumption
  • Regularly monitoring your blood pressure

But what if you already have DAN? The end goal is the same, managing your symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease. That's where medical intervention comes into play, coupled with lifestyle modifications.

Remember, understanding the challenges of Diabetes and its complications like DAN is the first step towards management. Knowledge is power and being well-informed helps us prepare for the journey ahead. 

Warning Signs and Symptoms

Diabetic autonomic neuropathy can manifest through various symptoms, differing from one individual to another. However, some common signals are telling. Gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation might hit first. If you find yourself having difficulty swallowing or feeling full after only a few bites, these could be signs as well.

Moving onto the cardiovascular system, we might experience symptoms like a faster-than-normal resting heart rate (say, above 100 beats per minute), or perhaps a drop in blood pressure when standing, causing us to feel dizzy. Let's put this into a lucid table for reference:

Warning Sign
Gastrointestinal: Bloating, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea or Constipation, Difficulty swallowing, Feeling full easily
Cardiovascular: Resting Heart rate >100 beats/minute, Drop in blood pressure upon standing leading to dizziness

The urinary system isn't exempt, either. Trouble controlling urine, overactive bladder, and urinary incontinence might point towards autonomic neuropathy. Sexual dysfunction is another telltale sign. For men, it might leash out as erectile dysfunction, whereas, for women, it may cause sexual arousal disorders.

With symptoms covering an array of body systems, it's important to stay attuned to what our bodies are saying. To round up let's bullet the list:

  • Gastrointestinal problems: Bloating, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea or Constipation, Difficulty swallowing, Feeling full easily
  • Cardiovascular issues: Resting Heart rate >100 beats/minute, Drop in blood pressure upon standing leading to dizziness
  • Urinary symptoms: Trouble controlling urine, Overactive bladder, Urinary incontinence
  • Sexual dysfunction: Erectile dysfunction in men, Sexual arousal disorders in women

Don't forget, these symptoms could be pointing to something else. If you're experiencing any of these, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional promptly. Early detection opens up better chances for effective management, helping us keep our diabetes in check and stride towards a healthier life.

Preventive Measures and Treatment Options

A healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone of the preventive strategy. It typically encompasses things like:

  • Maintaining blood sugar at recommended levels
  • Regular physical exercise
  • Balanced diet, low in sugar and saturated fats
  • Moderation in alcohol intake

Also, we must stress the importance of quitting smoking. As nicotine adversely affects blood pressure, quitting can significantly slow down nerve damage onset.

Now, moving on to treatment options, modern medicine has handed us quite a few effective tools. They mainly aim at managing symptoms and slowing progression. Medications are usually prescribed to help deal with symptoms like dizziness and weakness. It's important to remember these may vary greatly from one person to another, owing to individual body dynamics.

Medications Prescribed General Purpose
Antidepressants Help manage depression and anxiety
Alpha-lipoic Acid Assists with blood glucose control
Anti-diarrheal drugs Alleviate digestive problems

Supportive treatments such as physical therapy may also be beneficial. Furthermore, pioneering technologies like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) have shown promise in managing pain and discomfort.

In the same vein, we advocate for diabetes self-management education. It enhances your knowledge about the condition and helps boost medication compliance. We strongly believe that managing conditions like diabetic autonomic neuropathy starts with making informed, healthy, daily life choices. As more and more research unfolds, we will continue to present you with the best scientifically proven tips and products to ensure your comfort and health.

Conclusion: Living Well With Diabetic Autonomic Neuropathy

Navigating through life with diabetic autonomic neuropathy isn't a stroll in the park, we understand that. But with the right tricks up our sleeve and a dash of determination, we'll help you see that it's more than just manageable, it's liveable.

Make no mistake about it, a healthy diet and regular exercise should be the rock solid foundation of your diabetic neuropathy management plan. They're simple, they're effective, they're indispensable.

Here's a brief rundown on why diabetic socks are an essential addition to your neuropathy care kit:

  • Enhanced circulation: Improved blood flow is a big positive for diabetic feet. Specially designed diabetic socks support this by offering a proper fit, avoiding unnecessary constriction.
  • Reduced neuropathic pain: The copper fibers in diabetic socks are known to reduce neuropathic pain by their antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Minimized foot ulcers: Diabetes brings with it the risk of foot ulcers. These socks can help keep them at bay by maintaining healthy foot temperature and reducing moisture build-up.

Staying vigilant, proactive and positive is the key here. Regular check-ups are vital, ensuring we're always on top of our condition. 

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More About Circufiber.com 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. Circufiber.com 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.