Researchers don’t entirely understand how diabetes damages nerves. There’s more to it than high blood glucose levels, but the details are fuzzy. Neuropathy is common in people with type 1 diabetes, especially if blood glucose levels are high for many years. Rates go up in those who’ve had diabetes longer. Children can also show signs of nerve damage, though it’s often asymptomatic; symptoms tend to emerge at older ages. High blood glucose levels, elevated triglycerides, excess weight, smoking, and high blood pressure are risk factors for neuropathy.
High blood glucose levels can damage nearly every nerve in the body; preventing permanent nerve damage is a very good reason for keeping blood glucose levels in the normal range.
If you have nerve damage and can’t feel the bottoms of your feet, you won’t know if you get a small cut or sore on your foot. People with diabetes may also have problems with their circulation. Together, nerve and blood vessel damage with high blood glucose levels cause nonhealing foot wounds called ulcers, which increase the risk of amputation. However, all of this can be prevented by looking at your feet.