The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

5 Tips To Help Diabetic Nerve Pain In The Foot

Posted by on Friday, October 18th, 2013


People with diabetes can develop nerve pain or loss of feeling over time. It is estimated that 60-70% of diabetics have some form of neuropathy, whether they feel it as numbness, burning, tingling or nothing at all. Generally, the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to suffer diabetic nerve pain. Metabolic factors, damage to blood vessels, inflammation in the nerves, inherited traits, and lifestyle factors (like smoking) all contribute to the development of neuropathy and pain. Experts from The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine give their best advice for how to control this pain.

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1. Control your sugars.

“I think the most important tip would be: prevention,” says Dr. Nadia Levy, a diabetic wound care specialist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC. “Do not let your blood sugar level get out of control.  Check it regularly at home and if you notice that it is trending too high — notify your managing doctor immediately.” Your sugar goals should be 70 to 130 mg/dL before meals and less than 180 mg/dL after meals.

WebMD cited a 2006 study conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which showed that strict blood glucose control with intensive insulin therapy lowered the risk of peripheral neuropathy by 64%.

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2. Explore over-the-counter solutions.

Your local  pharmacy has products containing Lidocaine or Capsaicin, which have helped nerve pain in some diabetics. One UK study found that “Capsaicin, either as repeated application of a low dose (0.075%) cream, or a single application of a high dose (8%) patch may provide a degree of pain relief to some patients with painful neuropathic conditions,” although they admitted outcomes may vary.

A study from the Massachusetts General Hospital Pain Center reported: “The thoughtful use of lidocaine therapy and the potential application of subtype-specific sodium channel blockers could provide better management of distinctive neuropathic pain symptoms.”

3. Try medical foods for diabetic nerve pain.

“Since prescription medications for nerve pain can have unwanted side effects, ask your doctor whether a medical food such as Metanx might be an option,” NYC Podiatrist Dr. Katherine Lai advises. A study by Tulane University found that Metanx provided short-term symptomatic relief for type 2 diabetes neuropathy sufferers. More studies are needed to confirm the long-term effectiveness.

4. Be honest about the pain.

It’s important to speak up if you have diabetes and feel any pain, numbness, or tingling in the foot. It may not seem like a big deal at first, but it can be the first signs of neuropathy, which means reduced circulation and ability too self-heal. From there, even minor wounds can become infected sores that may lead to gangrene or amputation.

5. See a podiatrist.

Foot care specialist Dr. Ryan Minara DPM says that many people go to their primary care physician when they should see a specialist instead. “We have many methods available to assess the degree of nerve damage,” he says, “and there are oral medicines and creams available to help control it. This may help prevent further complications from neuropathy.”


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.