What are the Different Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

What are the Different Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

There are five basic types of diabetic neuropathy that all damage the nerves but in different parts of the body and hence different symptoms and results. However, all these are linked and it may be difficult to differentiate one type of neuropathy from another without proper diagnosis.

To understand this better explained below are the five main types of diabetic neuropathy with their signs, symptoms and other relevant details.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, commonly referred to as sensory neuropathy can involve pain, tingling, numbness, or a combination of all, generally beginning in the feet. The nerves that run from the spinal cord to the feet are the longest in the body and must carry signals the farthest of all the nerves.  There is more opportunity for damage to these nerves just because there are more of them. This is the most common type of neuropathic condition caused by diabetes.

Motor Neuropathy

Motor neuropathy affects the way the body moves and can act like other forms of neuropathy the involve weakness, but generally, this type also involves a loss of motor control. If a person is afflicted with this type of neuropathy, they will often lack manual dexterity and their legs will often buckle, causing them to fall.

Proximal Neuropathy

Proximal neuropathy also referred to as diabetic amyotrophy affects the large muscles in the lower back and buttocks.  It can cause muscle weakness and is often associated with pain in the back and shooting pains up and down the large muscles of the legs. This type of neuropathy is one of the most common and is easier to resolve and treat than more common types such as peripheral neuropathy.


Mononeuropathy, sometimes called focal neuropathy, can occur suddenly and mostly affects nerves in the eyes and other parts of the head. It usually presents itself very suddenly and can cause shooting pains behind the eyeball and in other parts of the head.  Sometimes mononeuropathy will affect other parts of the body and is often confused with motor neuropathy because the symptoms are similar: weakness and cramps.  This type of neuropathy also imitates peripheral neuropathy and can cause tingling and sharp pains in the legs.

Autonomic Neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy tends to take the body out of balance, or homeostasis and gives the person a feeling of uneasiness because the functions that are usually automatically handled without conscious thought are interrupted.  This type of neuropathy will affect many of the systems which keep the body functioning but the most heavily affected will be the systems served by the most damaged nerves. This type of neuropathy doesn’t involve pain, but weakness, generally in the arms, can be diagnosed with tests and is often confused with other nerve diseases such as ALS. Autonomic neuropathy can involve symptoms such as weakness, loss of control of certain muscles, cramps, and even paralysis.

The various types of neuropathy often mimic each other and can be difficult or impossible to diagnose specifically because of crossover symptoms.  Only a physician can perform this diagnosis and will usually handle this through blood tests or reflex test.