Type 2 diabetes is an epidemic. Nearly 10% of Americans ― that’s more than 30 million people ― are diabetic, and many of that number are undiagnosed. There are many complications of diabetes, and among them is diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage. Left unchecked, this neuropathy can create pain similar to that of sciatica.

If you’re dealing with pain from diabetic neuropathy, Christopher Clark, MD, and his team at Premier Spine and Sports Medicine in Hagerstown, Maryland can help. In this blog, Dr. Clark discusses the differences and similarities between diabetic neuropathy and sciatica and what can be done to treat them.

What is diabetic neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy, which occurs due to high blood sugar levels, can cause injury to nerves throughout the body. This nerve pain is most commonly felt in the legs and feet. 

The condition can result in pain or numbness in the affected areas as well as muscle weakness, tingling or burning sensations, and cramps. The condition can also lead to damage in the urinary tract or digestive system.

How can diabetic neuropathy mimic sciatic pain?

While sciatica is a form of nerve damage, it mainly stems from a different cause. Sciatica typically stems from lower spine problems, such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs, or bone spurs. Any of these can compress the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, through the legs, and to the feet.

Since pain from diabetic neuropathy can often occur in the same areas associated with sciatica, people can confuse the two. The only way to tell the difference is with a thorough medical exam.

How can diabetic neuropathy be treated?

There is no cure for diabetic neuropathy. However, the symptoms can be treated. Treatment can alleviate symptoms, restore function, and slow progression of the damage. This is mainly done by closely monitoring your blood sugar and diet, and taking pain medications and exercising.

If you do have sciatica, treatment may include anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, steroids, physical therapy, and possibly surgery.

Knowing whether or not you’re dealing with diabetic neuropathy or sciatica is the key to getting the proper treatment. To get a thorough exam and start on the road to recovery, book an appointment online or over the phone with Premier Spine and Sports Medicine today.

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