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About Diabetic Nerve Pain

What is diabetic nerve pain?

If you have diabetes and shooting, burning, pins and needles pain in your feet or hands, you could have painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy—also known as diabetic nerve pain. It is a common complication of diabetes. The most common cause is poorly controlled blood sugar over time.

Diabetic nerve pain can take years to develop. In the early stages, you may have no signs at all, and then only start to feel a tingling or numbness in your feet. As it progresses, you may also feel the pain in your hands and it is often worse at night. This means that your nerves may be damaged for a long time before you experience painful symptoms.

Nerve damage can’t be reversed, but controlling your blood sugar can help prevent further damage. Talk to your doctor if you experience any symptoms of diabetic nerve pain.

29 Million Americans have diabetes. A number that is growing every year.*

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014.

Symptoms of diabetic nerve pain

These are some of the most common symptoms of diabetic nerve pain:

  • Shooting
  • Burning
  • Pins and needles
  • Numbness
  • Electric shock-like
  • Throbbing
  • Tingling
  • Stinging
  • Stabbing
  • Radiating
  • Sensitivity to touch
1 in 5 people living with diabetes experience diabetic nerve pain.

*Hartsfield CL, Korner EJ, Ellis JL, Raebel MA, Merenich J, Brandenburg N. Painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy in a managed care setting: patient identification, prevalence estimates, and pharmacy utilization patterns. Popul Health Manag. 2008;11:317-328.


How is diabetic nerve pain different from other pain?

There are two types of pain—muscle pain and nerve pain. Both types of pain are your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, but each has its own cause, symptoms, and management.

Muscle pain is a "protective" form of pain. It is caused by something specific, like an injury or inflammation. The nerves in the injured muscle or joint send electric signals to the brain as a warning that damage has occurred and the activity you’re doing is causing harm. If you limit or stop the harmful activity, muscle pain can get better over time.

Nerve pain is a "non-protective" form of pain. It occurs when your nerves are damaged by an injury or disease, such as diabetes. Your nerves send extra electrical signals to the brain. This causes pain when you do something that is not normally painful, like putting on shoes. Diabetic nerve pain is a sign that the nerves in your feet or hands are damaged.
It can’t be improved by changing or limiting your activities but can be managed.

81% of people report that the pain they experience from diabetic nerve pain is different from any other kind of pain, according to an online survey.

*A Pfizer-sponsored survey polled 1,004 people living with diabetes experiencing
DPN symptoms and 500 healthcare providers. Healthcare providers surveyed were not necessarily providing care to people who participated in this survey.


Assess Your Pain

Do you have diabetic nerve pain? Answer a few questions to help start the conversation with your doctor.



Importance of Taking Action

Learn why you shouldn’t ignore your diabetic nerve pain.