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How Dangerous Is Diabetic Neuropathy & Is It Contagious?

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that develops in patients with diabetes. It is associated with nerve damage, which is brought about by high blood sugar levels, over a long period of time. Diabetic neuropathy can be considered a progressive condition that occurs over time, and if the blood sugar level is not controlled, the condition worsens over time. So, if you have diabetes and start to experience numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in your hands or feet, you should see your doctor immediately. This should be your warning signs and know that something isn’t right. Otherwise, if you wait, you may develop wounds or sores on your feet that could make you lose a toe, foot or even the entire leg.[1]

How Dangerous Is Diabetic Neuropathy?

How Dangerous Is Diabetic Neuropathy?

One of the common complications of diabetic neuropathy is a loss of sensation in the legs. This means you can get leg injuries, cuts, bruises or wounds without noticing. If not treated, these leg injuries can worsen thus leading to amputation. Patients with diabetic autonomic neuropathy often experience silent myocardial infarction, which shortens their lifespan thus resulting in death in 25%–50% of the patients within 5–10 years. The prevalence of diabetic neuropathy increases over time as one continues to live with diabetes.[1] [2]

Individuals can also develop distal symmetrical polyneuropathy that may be sensory or motor and may involve small or large fibers, or both. Sensory impairment may occur in the hands and legs, with the legs losing sensory more than the hands, but motor signs are not prominent. If one has large fiber neuropathy, they are likely to experience painless paresthesia with impairment of vibration, joint position, touch and pressure sensations, and loss of ankle reflex. In the advanced stage, sensory ataxia may occur. On the other hand, if the small fibers are affected, patients are likely to have burning pain and impairment of pain and temperature sensations, which are often associated with autonomic neuropathy.[2]

Other patients with diabetes, about 10%, are likely to develop chronic pain. The Pain can either be spontaneous or stimulus-induced, severe or intractable and is typically worse at night. For some, they develop a tolerance to pain medication to the point of addiction, which can be hard to get over. Also, diabetic autonomic neuropathy affects various organs of the body thus resulting in a number of complications including; cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal, sexual, and urinary dysfunctions, as well as sweating issues, and metabolic disturbances. The effects of diabetic neuropathy on various organs can either be mild or severe, depending on the intensity of the underlying disease. [2]

Is Diabetic Neuropathy Contagious?

Diabetic neuropathy is not a contagious disease since it brews from impairment of glucose level, which arises from the body itself. It is actually caused by high levels of blood glucose, which in turn damages the nerves resulting in numbness, pain and/or discomfort often in the arms and legs. Other than diabetes, which is the major source of diabetic neuropathy, there are other factors which increase the risk of neuropathy. They include smoking and alcohol abuse, whereby smoking damages blood vessels thus resulting in decreased flow of oxygen to the nerves surrounding the vessels. There are also several genetic factors that are unrelated to diabetes which is suspected of playing a role in the development of diabetic neuropathy, but there’s much evidence to support the theory.[3]


Diabetic neuropathy can be a life-altering condition with regards to the effects it can have on your physical health as well as general health. In cases where the condition is severe, individuals are likely to develop sores and wounds in their feet that may result in amputation. Other than that, other complications result in cardiovascular problems, digestion issues, urinary impairment, and even sexual dysfunction, which basically affect one’s quality of life. Diabetic neuropathy is not a contagious disease since it cannot be transferred from one person to the other. But some genetic factors may play a role in the development of the underlying disease, i.e. diabetes, which can be hereditary.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 17, 2019

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