Sensory Neuropathy

Sensory neuropathy occurs if the body's sensory nerves become damaged.

People with diabetes have an increased risk of neuropathy as high blood glucose levels over long periods of time can damage the nerves.

Sensory neuropathy may also be called polyneuropathy as it affects a number of different nerve centres.

Symptoms of sensory neuropathy

Sensory neuropathy starts from the extremities of the body such as the feet or hands and can develop to affect the legs and arms.

The symptoms of sensory neuropathy will be present at the part of your body where the nerves are affected:

  • Numbness
  • Reduced ability to sense pain or extreme temperatures
  • Tingling feeling
  • Unexplained burning sensations
  • Sharp stabbing pains – which may be noticeable at night

Dysesthesia

People with sensory neuropathy may experience dysesthesia, which translates as abnormal sensation.

The symptoms of dysesthesia include:

  • A burning feeling under the skin
  • Extremely sensitive skin to the extent where clothes and bedding can cause intense pain

Treatment of sensory neuropathy

People with diabetes experiencing sensory should aim to keep their blood glucose levels under tight control to help prevent neuropathy from developing.

People with diabetes experiencing neuropathic pain may first be prescribed an oral painkiller called duloxetine. Alternatives to duloxetine include amitriptyline and pregabalin. People who do not respond to the aforementioned treatments may be prescribed tramadol.

A further alternative is to use topical lidocaine which is a local anaesthetic that may be prescribed as a cream, gel or spray.

Complications of sensory neuropathy

People with sensory neuropathy will typically have difficulty sensing causes of pain and heat which can result in unnoticed injury being sustained.

Partly because the feet are less easy to see than the hands, the feet are particularly vulnerable to damage going unnoticed in people with neuropathy and developing into a serious health risk.

Cuts, blisters and burns can develop into foot ulcers which raise the risk of needing amputation for people with diabetes and neuropathy.