You can help prevent or delay diabetic neuropathy and its complications by keeping your blood sugar consistently well-controlled, taking good care of your feet and following a healthy lifestyle.

Blood sugar control

Keeping your blood sugar tightly controlled requires continuous monitoring and, if you take insulin, frequent doses of medication. But keeping your blood sugar consistently within your target range is the best way to help prevent neuropathy and other complications of diabetes. Consistency is important because shifts in blood sugar levels can accelerate nerve damage.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes have a blood test called the A1C test at least twice a year to find out your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. If your blood sugar isn't well-controlled or you change medications, you may need to get tested more often.

Foot care

Foot problems, including sores that don't heal, ulcers and even amputation, are a common complication of diabetic neuropathy. But you can prevent many of these problems by having a comprehensive foot exam at least once a year, having your doctor check your feet at each office visit and taking good care of your feet at home.

To protect the health of your feet:

  • Check your feet every day. Look for blisters, cuts, bruises, cracked and peeling skin, redness and swelling. Use a mirror or ask a friend or family member to help examine parts of your feet that are hard to see.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry. Wash your feet every day with lukewarm water and mild soap. Avoid soaking your feet. Dry your feet and between your toes carefully by blotting or patting with a soft towel.

    Moisturize your feet thoroughly to prevent cracking. Avoid getting lotion between your toes, however, as this can encourage fungal growth.

  • Trim your toenails carefully. Cut your toenails straight across, and file the edges carefully so there are no sharp edges.
  • Wear clean, dry socks. Look for socks made of cotton or moisture-wicking fibers that don't have tight bands or thick seams.
  • Wear cushioned shoes that fit well. Always wear shoes or slippers to protect your feet from injury. Make sure that your shoes fit properly and allow your toes to move. A podiatrist can teach you how to buy properly fitted shoes and to prevent problems such as corns and calluses.

    If problems do occur, your doctor can help treat them to prevent more-serious conditions. Even small sores can quickly turn into severe infections if left untreated.

    If you qualify for Medicare, your plan may cover the cost of at least one pair of shoes each year. Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator for more information.

Feb. 24, 2015