Health Answers: How does diabetes affect the nerves?

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One of the major potential health consequences of diabetes is nerve damage, or neuropathy, which results from chronically high blood sugar levels over time. The most common form is peripheral neuropathy, which affects the nerves responsible for sensation in the arms, legs, feet, and hands. Neuropathies can also occur in the hips, thighs, or buttocks, on in nerves controlling digestion and other internal bodily functions.

Aaron Cypess, an endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says that diabetics who develop peripheral neuropathy usually feel numbness in the affected area, followed by tingling or “pins and needles,” and later pain. Other neuropathies can cause problems with digestion, urination, sexual response, vision, blood pressure, and heart rate.

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