Can Tingling in the Hands and Feet Be a Symptom of Diabetes?

Tingling in the hands and feet—a condition known as peripheral neuropathy—is a complication that can develop in people with diabetes. Usually, this condition develops over time as a result of high or uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

In this article, you will learn what other conditions can lead to peripheral neuropathy and how to find relief if you develop tingling in your hands and feet from diabetes.

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What Is Tingling in the Hands and Feet?

Tingling in the hands and/or feet, often described as a feeling of pins and needles or a burning sensation, is referred to as peripheral neuropathy. Although this can be a complication of diabetes, it can also result from other injuries or diseases.

Physical Injuries and Infection

All kinds of physical injuries can lead to mechanical damage to your nerves or nervous system. Broken bones can also impact the nerves beyond the point of injury.

Some common sources of injuries that could lead to peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Sports injuries
  • Surgeries or other medical procedures
  • Crush injuries (injuries from force or pressure on a body part)

Several infections can also cause peripheral nerve damage, including:

Vascular or Blood Disorders

A complex system of veins and arteries is responsible for bringing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to all of the tissues in your body and returning depleted blood to the heart and lungs. When there is a disruption in this system and tissues or nerves are left without vital nutrients and oxygen, damage can happen fairly quickly.

Diabetes, smoking, and a narrowing of the blood vessels from high blood pressure or cholesterol are all vascular issues that can lead to peripheral neuropathy.

Autoimmune Diseases

Inflammation can damage tissue all over your body, and systemic—or body-wide—inflammation is common in people with autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases can also result in the body attacking its own tissues, including nerve fibers.

Autoimmune diseases that could cause you to develop peripheral neuropathy include:

Metabolic Disorders

Your metabolic system dictates how the food you eat is turned into energy and used by the body. Your hormones, kidneys, and liver are all part of this system, so any defect in one of these areas can contribute to issues.

Nerve damage is a consequence of several types of metabolic imbalances and diseases, including:

Medications or Treatments for Other Conditions

Just as toxic substances and alcohol can lead to nerve damage, some medications or medical treatments can do the same. In particular, cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, carry a high risk of nerve damage and the development of peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy can even develop years after stopping these treatments.

Is Neuropathy a Symptom of Diabetes?

Neuropathy isn't necessarily a symptom of diabetes. Instead, it's a late-stage complication of the disease. Diabetic neuropathy develops over time as high blood sugar and fats in your blood cause nerve damage. Up to half of all people with diabetes develop some form of neuropathy.

People who have diabetes along with the following conditions are most likely to develop diabetic neuropathy:

Controlling your blood sugar levels and working to resolve these risk factors can help reduce your chances of developing diabetic neuropathy.

Treatments and Management of Neuropathy

Most people who develop peripheral neuropathy from diabetes will have only mild numbness. While this numbness can be scary, most people with diabetic neuropathy retain enough sensation to help avoid serious injuries.

Controlling your blood sugar is the first step in treating diabetic neuropathy. With better diabetes management, you may notice a reduction in your neuropathy symptoms after about a year. Protecting yourself from neuropathy-related injuries, such as stepping on sharp objects, is also important. Wearing shoes—even around the house—can help.

If these measures don't bring you any relief, your healthcare provider may offer you the following prescription medications to reduce your neuropathy pain and improve your overall quality of life:

These medications have been shown to reduce symptoms by about 30% to 50% in some people.

Some nonpharmaceutical treatments that may help reduce pain from peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Electric or magnetic stimulation
  • Exercise
  • Pain-relieving topical creams, like capsaicin cream

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

In some cases, nerve damage from diabetes can extend to areas beyond your hands and feet. Some additional issues that can arise from diabetic nerve damage include:

These conditions develop when the nerves that different body processes need to function become ineffective. Talk to your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms beyond typical neuropathic pain.

Summary

While tingling or numbness in the hands and feet may be a symptom of many conditions, it can be a complication of diabetes, known as peripheral diabetic neuropathy. People with diabetes who don't control their blood sugar are at risk of developing such complications.

If you have diabetes, talk to your healthcare provider about steps you can take to avoid developing diabetic neuropathy or other problems related to your diabetes.

A Word From Verywell

Diabetes can put you at risk for all kinds of complications, including tingling and numbness in your hands and feet. Controlling your blood sugar is the first step in preventing this complication. If you do develop peripheral neuropathy along with diabetes, talk to your healthcare provider about possible treatments and ways to avoid injury and infection.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why does diabetes cause tingling in the hands and feet?

    High blood sugar in uncontrolled diabetes can lead to nerve damage that causes numbness, pain, and tingling.

  • Can diabetes cause numbness in the hands and feet?

    Yes. Diabetic neuropathy is a complication of uncontrolled blood glucose levels. Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include numbness, tingling, burning, or pain in the hands and feet.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institutes of Health. Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet.

  2. National Institutes of Health. What is diabetic neuropathy?

  3. Bodman MA, Varacallo M. Peripheral diabetic neuropathy. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  4. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Effectiveness of treatments for diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
 Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.