Spray Eases Diabetic Foot Pain

Spray Drug Already Used for Chest Pain

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 3, 2002 -- A drug that's commonly used to relieve chest pain may also help ease a painful foot condition in people with diabetes. A new study found spraying the feet with the drug ISDN provided temporary relief from diabetic neuropathy.

People with diabetes are at risk for developing the condition, which causes severe pain in the lower legs and feet, especially at night. Many people with diabetic neuropathy eventually become sleep-deprived, and typical pain medications do not seem to help.

Although the exact cause of diabetic neuropathy is unknown, researchers believe the nerve damage is related to an impaired ability to generate nitric oxide (NO). NO is used by the body to encourage healthy blood flow and oxygen circulation.

In the study, published in the October issue of Diabetes Care, researchers tested the effectiveness of an ISDN foot spray in relieving pain caused by the condition. They chose the drug because it is known to boost NO and help blood vessels dilate in heart disease patients.

Twenty-two patients with diabetic neuropathy randomly used either the foot spray or a placebo each night for four weeks with a two-week break between treatment periods. Researchers found half of the patients said the drug spray helped their condition and wanted to continue using it, compared with 18% who preferred the placebo and 32% who were undecided.

Researchers say the ISDN spray was effective at reducing overall pain and burning sensations, and was also associated with improvements in sleep, ability to exercise, and mood.

Researcher Kevin C.J. Yuen, MRCP, of Addenbroke's Hospital in Cambridge, UK, and colleagues say that although ISDN may not be effective in all patients, it could be tried before resorting to other drug treatments that might cause unpleasant side effects.

In addition, the study results suggest that the role of NO should be further examined in developing other potential treatments for diabetic neuropathy.