Diabetic Nerve Pain More Common than Doctors Think

Diabetics report symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, or nerve pain, at a rate that is double that estimated by healthcare providers, according to a new survey conducted by the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) and Pfizer, Inc. The survey also found substantial gaps in communication between doctors, nurses and patients about the disease.

An estimated 26 million Americans have diabetes. About one in five experience diabetic nerve pain. Symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) can include numbness, tingling, burning, insensitivity to pain and temperature, pins and needles, shooting pain, loss of balance, and stabbing pain in the hands or feet.

Despite its prevalence, the survey of 500 physicians and nurses, and over one thousand people with DPN found major misconceptions and a significant lack of patient awareness about the disease.

Among the findings:

  • Only 45% of healthcare providers discuss DPN symptoms with their patients in detail
  • Only 28% of patients discuss their symptoms in detail
  • 77% of patients says DPN impacts their daily activities, while health care providers say only 38% of their patients have daily limits because of DPN
  • 56% of patients and 69% of health care providers have difficulty describing DPN symptoms
  • 80% of patients with painful DPN say it is different than any other pain they experience
  • 18% of patients with painful DPN think it can be reversed.

In light of these communication gaps, ACPA is launching an educational campaignDiabetic Nerve Pain: Starting the Dialogue, to provide resources for people with diabetic nerve pain (DPN) and healthcare providers.

“The American Chronic Pain Association realizes the importance of recognizing the symptoms of painful DPN and the impact it can have on a person’s life,” said Penney Cowan, executive director of the American Chronic Pain Association. “We hope that our campaign will shed light on the importance for individuals to have a meaningful conversation with their healthcare provider about what they can do to better recognize and manage symptoms.”

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