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Diabetic Neuropathies

Diagnosis & Expected Duration

Monday, Aug. 27, 2007; 7:44 PM

Copyright Harvard Health Publications 2007


Table of Contents

Your doctor usually can diagnose diabetic neuropathy based on your medical history, symptoms and the results of a physical examination. When necessary, more specialized testing may be done, such as:

  • Nerve conduction studies to check whether nerve impulses in the arms and legs are normal, and a test called electromyography to see how well arm and leg muscles move in response to nerve signals. These two tests usually are done together. They involve a series of momentary minor electric shocks through small needles or pads on the skin.

  • Ultrasound scan of the urinary bladder or drainage of the bladder through a catheter to evaluate how efficiently your bladder empties.

  • Gastric (stomach) emptying study to test how quickly food moves through your stomach. In this test, you eat food, such as scrambled eggs, that has been marked with radioactivity. A series of pictures is taken by a machine that detects the radioactive signal.

  • Nerve biopsy, which involves taking a small sample of a nerve to be examined under a microscope.

Expected Duration

Peripheral and autonomic neuropathies are usually long-term problems, but most cases of focal neuropathy last only a few weeks or months.

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