Can diabetic neuropathy be reversed 100%? Unfortunately, the short and simple answer to this question is “NO.”
However, there are methods you can implement and lifestyle changes you can make that might delay the onset of diabetic neuropathy, but there’s no known way to reverse this disorder completely. You might be able to restore some of the nerves by taking neuropathy supplements, but that’s about it.
In one of our previous articles titled “How Long Does It Take for a Nerve to Regenerate?” we talked about how nerves regenerate.
We provided a timeline for the rate of recovery and discussed whether the nerve regenerates quickly or not.
To recap, there are 6 degrees of nerve injuries that may or may not heal spontaneously. Imagine living with excruciating pain that shoots up in your hands and feet day after day.
There are days where you are completely fine, some where you even struggle to stand, and then there are those when even the feel of a bed sheet is too much. This is how diabetic neuropathy destroys your life. Sadly, most people don’t take the symptoms seriously.
These symptoms always start small such as a slight tingling sensation and mild pain, but they progress quite quickly as we explained in another article “Living with Small Fiber Neuropathy - Is This Condition Fatal”. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, around 60 to 70% of diabetics have some form of nerve damage.
Can Never Damage Be Reversed?
If you do a Google search and type this question, you will see the word “No” written everywhere. You will come across dozens of articles that will talk about “delay and prevent,” but not “reverse.”
An article published in Diabetes in Control talked about a study conducted by Dr. Slobodan Todorovic and his colleagues who belonged to the Anesthesiology and Neuroscience Department at UVA.
In order to find out whether diabetic neuropathy is reversible or not, they based their study on a substance that is present naturally in both animals and humans.
The results showed that blood sugar in high level can cause a change in the channels’ structure that release calcium in nerve cells. This forces the channels to open further and calcium overload makes the nerves hyperactive.
This strenuous activity leads to neuropathy symptoms like slight tingling in legs and arms, and pain. The study was conducted on mice and has yet to be done again using humans.
National Institute of Health online journal directory has more than 800 studies on diabetic neuropathy. These studies are about topics such as medicine, therapy, exercises, meditation and more.
Recently, a study was published on “Reversing Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Through Exercise”. The results will be published in 2022. This study is so far the first of its kinds and will finally answer the burning question whether nerve damage in diabetics is reversible or not.
So you know that there’s no absolute answer to the question and going with studies that have been published, it is still a “No”.
Managing Diabetic Neuropathy
Every article mentions the same thing, which is why we are clearing this for your knowledge — the only way you can live with this disorder without less pain is by managing your blood glucose level.
The body cannot repair nerve tissues on its own. As mentioned in our previous articles, the nerve might regenerate but there’s a high possibility that you might not gain the same level of function that you once had.
Here are a few ways you can manage diabetic neuropathy:
- Lower blood sugar level
- When your hands and feet lose feeling, it becomes difficult to feel an injury. A small cut can go unnoticed, which might fester and cause an infection. This will only speed up degeneration of the nerves. So do check your feet regularly to make sure there are no wounds
- Treat nerve pain using neuropathy creams or supplements for nerve health.
Diabetic Neuropathy Risk Factors
At a certain point in life, you become vulnerable to diabetic neuropathy. Following are those risk factors:
- Cannot control your blood sugar level
- Follow a sedentary lifestyle and a poor diet
- Have a high BMI
- High cholesterol
- Are above 45 years old
- Have had diabetes for 25 years
- High blood pressure
Managing Blood Sugar Level
The key to managing diabetic neuropathy is managing your blood sugar. Here are a few tips that you can try to maintain the balance:
- Avoid foods that are high in sugars (especially artificial sugar)
- Avoid sodas, sweetened drinks, fruit juices, coffees, candy bars and processed snacks
- Eat foods that are high in fiber (high fiber foods keep your blood sugar level steady)
- Eat foods that are high in healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil
- Eat lean protein like turkey and chicken
- Eat plant based proteins and vegetables regularly like tofu and beans
- Try to exercise at least 5 times a week by walking or doing yoga exercises for neuropathy. If you have severe diabetic neuropathy then you might not be accustomed to such movements so keep the workout to 15 minutes and build your way up slowly.
- Record your blood sugar levels for your satisfaction so that if the neuropathy pain does lessen, you can visit the doctor and get a customized health plan for the future
There are plenty of treatment options for diabetic neuropathy. Once medicine that has shown immense promise is Pregabalin (Lyrica), which is also FDA approved for neuropathic pain. In fact, according to a study published in the Diabetes Care journal, Pregabalin showed significant improvement in pain in diabetic neuropathy patients.
Other medicines include:
- Gabapentin (Neurontin)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
In some cases, doctors might even recommend opioids and topical medications to provide temporary relief from the pain.
And this brings us to the conclusion that nerve damage cannot be reversed. The answer to the question is a mystery that might get solved in a couple of years as more studies are done on diabetic patients with neuropathy.