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October 22nd, 2014

Awareness and education are key to bridging the communication gap between people with diabetic nerve pain and healthcare providers

In the United States there are nearly 26 million people with diabetes and one of the most common complications of the condition is diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), a form of nerve damage. More than one in five people with diabetes experience painful DPN, also known as diabetic nerve pain, as a direct result of this nerve damage. For most people, diabetic nerve pain affects the extremities – the feet and hands – and is sometimes referred to as a sock/glove pattern, as symptoms may be felt at the tips or the fingers or toes and then move along through the hands and feet. These symptoms may go unmentioned during a doctor visit since many people are unaware of the connection of this pain to their diabetes.

Results of a recent survey of 1,004 Americans diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes who reported experiencing any symptoms of DPN and 500 healthcare providers (HCPs) in clinical practice who treat people with diabetes showed there are significant misconceptions between the groups when it came to the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of painful DPN.  HCPs surveyed were not necessarily providing care to the people with diabetes who participated in this survey.

The survey found that 69 percent of HCPs and 56 percent of people with painful DPN report that DPN symptoms can be difficult to describe. Among those suffering from painful DPN, 81 percent say the pain is different from other kinds of pain they are used to experiencing, and 41 percent report that they have been definitively diagnosed with DPN. Additionally, results showed that 83 percent of people with DPN symptoms report experiencing painful symptoms, however, on average, HCPs estimate that only 41 percent of their patients with DPN experience pain.  These results underscore a communication gap between people living with diabetic nerve pain and their HCP, which can impact or delay diagnosis.

To help people with diabetes and HCPs engage in more productive discussions about DPN and its symptoms, the American Chronic Pain Association and Pfizer Inc. launched an educational program called “Diabetic Nerve Pain: Starting the Dialogue,” which includes helpful tools and resources, including a conversation guide that people with diabetic nerve pain can print and bring to their doctor’s office.

By bridging the communications gap, people with diabetes and HCPs can work together to diagnosis and treat this painful condition. To access resources and other information about living with painful DPN, visit: www.DiabetesPainHelp.com and www.TheACPA.org. This educational initiative was funded by Pfizer Inc.

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