Diagnosis of Diabetic Nerve Damage

Diabetic neuropathy is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms, your medical history and a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor may check blood pressure, heart rate, muscle strength and tone, tendon reflexes, and sensitivity to position changes, vibration, temperature, or light touch.

Foot Exams

The American Diabetes Association recommends that all people with diabetes have a complete foot exam — either by a doctor or by a foot specialist (podiatrist) — at least once a year. For those already have foot problems, they should have their foot checked more often. In addition, your doctor should look at your feet at each office visit to check for injuries, sores, blisters, cracked skin, calluses or other problems.

A complete foot exam includes a check of the skin on your feet, your foot muscles and bones, and your blood flow.

Your doctor may also conduct tests that include:

  • Filament test
    Sensitivity to touch may be tested by touching your foot with a soft nylon fiber called monofilament. It looks like a stiff piece of nylon fishing line or a bristle in a hairbrush.
  • Nerve conduction studies
    This test measures how quickly the nerves in your arms and legs conduct electrical signals.
  • Electromyography (EMG)
    Often performed along with nerve conduction studies, electromyography measures the electrical activity in muscles. Muscles normally receive constant electrical signals from healthy nerves.
  • Quantitative sensory testing
    This non-invasive, pain-free test is used to assess how your nerves respond to vibration sensation and changes in temperature.

If you are diagnosed with diabetic nerve damage, you should have a thorough annual foot examination by a healthcare professional to manage and prevent the progression of nerve damage. For those who have diabetes but have not experienced symptoms of nerve damage, you are also advised to have proper foot examination. Annual foot examination will help to prevent the foot complications of diabetes. Consult your healthcare professional if you have cuts or breaks in the skin, or if your foot changes colour and shape or have an ingrown nail.


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