Retin A May Help Avoid Diabetes Ulcers
Treatments With Retinoic Acid Helped Skin Wounds Heal Faster in Tests on Rats
Skin treatments containing retinoic acid could help prevent skin ulcers in
people with diabetes, research shows.
Ulcers are far more than a cosmetic problem. They signal diabetes-related
problems with wound healing.
Complications from diabetes, like nerve and blood vessel damage, increase
the risk of ulcers. And if the nerves that signal pain have been damaged, the
patient may not know he or she has an ulcer.
That can turn minor wounds into big problems. "Diabetic ulcers of the
lower limbs and feet, in particular, are associated with high morbidity and
often lead to amputation," says a new study from the University of
Retinoic acid might help avoid the problem, say the researchers.
In lab tests, retinoic acid helped the skin wounds of diabetic rats heal
faster. That could cut down on chronic ulcers, say James Varani, PhD, and
Retinoic Acid's Reputation
Retinoic acid is no stranger to skin lotions. Made from vitamin A, it's the
active ingredient in prescription treatments Retin A, and Renova.
Retinoic acid and other derivatives of vitamin A have also been used for
skin problems including acne and signs of sun damage (wrinkles, brown spots,
and rough skin).
However, the potions are powerful. They can irritate the skin, causing
redness, dryness, and flakiness. These medications should not be used if you
are pregnant or if you plan to become pregnant.
In the latest study, a retinoic-acid-containing lotion was applied to
diabetic and nondiabetic rats every other day for eight weeks. Other rats got
the same lotion but without the retinoic acid.
After eight weeks, the treatments ended and the rats got minor skin
As expected, the wounds healed faster in the nondiabetic rats.
Among the diabetic rats, wounds healed faster in the retinoic acid group.
Within six days, 85% of their wound had healed, compared with 41% for the
diabetic rats that didn't get retinoic acid.
The healing wounds also looked a bit different in the diabetic rats that had
gotten retinoic acid. Their scabs had fewer abnormalities, says the study.
Since faster-healing wounds are less likely to form chronic ulcers, retinoic
acid might curb the risk of diabetic skin ulcers, the researchers conclude.
What About Aging?
Just like everyone else, people with diabetes are vulnerable to sun
"It should be kept in mind that diabetes is a progressive disease, and
its consequences are often seen after years or decades," says the
"Thus, the effects of diabetes on the skin may be superimposed on the
negative changes that occur as a result of the aging process itself. "In
this regard, the effects of diabetes on the skin may be analogous to what is
seen in [sun] damage."
It should be possible to find a way to get the skin benefits of retinoids
without the irritation, the researchers add.
The study, which doesn't make recommendations for diabetes patients, appears
in the March issue of Diabetes.