Living with diabetic nerve pain

A lifestyle image of a woman walking outside on a sunny day.

Diabetic nerve damage, also called diabetic neuropathy, is a condition that affects half of all people with diabetes in the United States.1 Typically, it develops as a result of uncontrolled blood sugar in type 1 and 2 diabetics.

People with diabetic nerve damage live with chronic pain, weakness and numbness at the location of their damaged nerve.2 Humana Pharmacy® screening pharmacist Debra Droopad works with many patients who have diabetic nerve pain. She enjoys helping them manage their care so they can stay in control of their health.

In her first article for Humana Pharmacy, she discusses the different types of diabetic nerve pain and shares which medicines work best for pain management.

And now—let’s hear from Debra:

Types of diabetic nerve pain

There are 4 main types of diabetic nerve pain: peripheral, autonomic, proximal and focal.

A chart with information about the four types of diabetic nerve pain

Diabetic nerve pain relief

Diabetic nerve damage is manageable with the right treatment. The goal of treatment is to address what’s causing your nerve damage and the related nerve pain.

In most cases, your treatment may include managing your blood sugar levels and committing to lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and regular exercise.4 It could also include select over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines.

They may include:5

  • OTC pain relievers: ibuprofen (Advil® and Motrin®), acetaminophen (Tylenol®), capsaicin creams (applied to your body for pain relief). You can buy OTC pain relievers in the Humana Pharmacy OTC store if you have an OTC benefit. Sign in to your account to shop.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): These medicines treat nerve pain by increasing the serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine levels in your brain that influence how you feel pain. Examples include amitriptyline (Elavil®) and desipramine (Norpramin®).
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These medicines treat nerve pain by increasing the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in your brain that influence how you feel pain. Examples include duloxetine (Cymbalta®) and venlafaxine (Effexor®).
  • Certain anti-seizure medications: These medicines treat nerve pain by stopping damaged nerves from sending pain signals to your brain. Examples include gabapentin (Gralise® Neurontin®) and pregabalin (Lyrica®).

There are also non-medicated ways to manage diabetic nerve pain such as:

  • acupuncture
  • hypnosis
  • meditation
  • vitamins
  • transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS therapy), which uses a low amount of electricity to treat pain

Prevention is key

It’s important to take your insulin as directed and watch your sugar levels to prevent diabetic nerve damage. Whenever you’re running low on insulin, sign in to your account to place a new order with Humana Pharmacy. And if you need help paying for your insulin, you may be eligible for Humana’s Insulin Savings Program. Additionally, if you think you have untreated diabetic nerve pain, please contact your healthcare provider for help.

Disclaimers: This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor to determine what is right for you.

About Debra:

Debra Droopad joined Humana Pharmacy as a screening pharmacist in October 2020. In her role, she reviews mail-order prescription medicines for accuracy and safety before they’re sent to Humana Pharmacy customers. Debra attended pharmacy school at the University of Arizona and has been a licensed pharmacist for 3 years. Before becoming a pharmacist, she worked as a pharmacy technician and intern for 5 years and completed a pharmacy residency program at the Mayo Clinic.

Sources:

  1. “Neuropathy,” American Diabetes Association, last accessed Oct. 18, 2021, https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/complications/neuropathy.
  2. “Diabetes and Nerve Damage,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last accessed Oct. 18, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-nerve-damage.html.
  3. “Diabetes and Nerve Damage.”
  4. “Diabetes and Nerve Damage.”
  5. “Diabetic neuropathy,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed Oct. 18, 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-neuropathy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20371587.

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