About 29 million Americans have diabetes and the CDC estimates about half of them are dealing with some kind of nerve damage as a result, which can lead to pain and more serious health issues. One well-known comedian is trying to encourage diabetics not to ignore the pain. Health reporter Erin Billups has the details.
Cedric the Entertainer says watching his father suffer with diabetic neuropathy or nerve pain, was no laughing matter. It's why he's joined the awareness campaign launched by The American Diabetes Association and Pfizer, encouraging diabetics not to ignore the pain.
"The reason why I got involved is, you know, the African American dad, self-reliant, strong man, don’t need anything. And so you start to see him not really enjoying the things that he used to do. He is a big outdoors guy, loved cut his own trees, be in the garden," says the comedian.
In a survey, the Step On Up campaign found that 79 percent of diabetics were dealing with nerve pain and not connecting it to diabetes. Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately going undiagnosed.
"Don’t suffer in silence, don’t think you can figure it out on your own," says Cedric.
Dr. Minisha Sood heads up inpatient diabetes care at Lenox Hill Hospital and says it's a common story. The pain is often missed in the litany of issues doctors must go over with their diabetic patients.
She explains the pain is the result of high blood sugar attacking proteins in the body.
"Those proteins change and those proteins become inflammatory," adds Sood, noting it causes nerve damage.
She says the symptoms only get worse if not addressed. Those whose high blood sugar, blood pressure, weight and cholesterol are not under control are at greater risk for nerve pain and other consequences.
"Diabetic nerve pains starts out of something very mild, can progress and once you have the numbness stage they really can’t feel their feet," says Sood.
Which could lead to injury, infection and even amputation.
The good news is the nerve damage can be reversed if caught early.
"And for patients with diabetes who don’t yet have nerve pain prevention is critical," says Sood.
For more information, visit diabetespainhelp.com.