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Retin A May Help Avoid Diabetes Ulcers

Treatments With Retinoic Acid Helped Skin Wounds Heal Faster in Tests on Rats
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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 Michigan.

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 colleagues.

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 wounds.

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.

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