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The Nerve Damage of Diabetes

Are There Any Experimental Treatments for Diabetic Neuropathy?

Several new drugs under study may eventually prevent or reverse diabetic neuropathy. However, extensive testing is required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to establish the safety and efficacy of drugs before they are approved for widespread use.

Researchers are exploring treatment with a compound called myoinositol. Early findings have shown that nerves in diabetic animals and humans have less than normal amounts of this substance. Myoinositol supplements increase the levels of this substance in tissues of diabetic animals, but research is still needed to show any concrete lasting benefits from this treatment.

Another area of research concerns the drug aminoguanidine. In animals, this drug blocks cross-linking of proteins that occurs more quickly than normal in tissues exposed to high levels of glucose. Early clinical tests are under way to determine the effects of aminoguanidine in humans.

One approach that appeared promising involved the use of aldose reductase inhibitors (ARIs). ARIs are a class of drugs that block the formation of the sugar alcohol sorbitol, which is thought to damage nerves. Scientists hoped these drugs would prevent and might even repair nerve damage. But so far, clinical trials have shown that these drugs have major side effects and, consequently, they are not available for clinical use.

Some General Hints

  • Ask your doctor to suggest an exercise routine that is right for you. Many people who exercise regularly find the pain of neuropathy less severe. Aside from helping you reach and maintain a healthy weight, exercise also improves the body's use of insulin, helps improve circulation, and strengthens muscles. Check with your doctor before starting exercise that can be hard on your feet, such as running or aerobics.
  • If you smoke, try to stop because smoking makes circulatory problems worse and increases the risk of neuropathy and heart disease.
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. Recent research has indicated that as few as four drinks per week can worsen neuropathy.
  • Take special care of your feet.

What Resources Are Available for People with Diabetic Neuropathy?

American Association of Diabetes Educators
100 West Monroe Street, 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60603
800-338-3633 or 312-424-2426
www.aadenet.org

A professional organization that can help individuals locate a diabetes educator in their community.

American Diabetes Association National Service Center
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
800-232-3472 or 703-549-1500

A private, voluntary organization that fosters public awareness of diabetes and supports and promotes diabetes research and education. The association has printed information on many aspects of diabetes, and local affiliates sponsor community programs. Local affiliates can be found in the telephone directory or through the national office.

American Dietetic Association
216 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60606-6995
800-877-1600 or 312-899-0040

A professional organization that can help individuals locate a registered dietitian in their community.

WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

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