Alpha-lipoic acid is most commonly used for nerve pain in people with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy). High doses of alpha-lipoic acid are approved in Germany for the treatment of these nerve-related symptoms. It is also used for high levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia) and obesity.
How does it work ?
Alpha-lipoic acid is used in the body to break down carbohydrates and to make energy for the other organs in the body.
Alpha-lipoic acid seems to work as an antioxidant, which means that it might provide protection to the brain under conditions of damage or injury. The antioxidant effects might also be helpful in certain liver diseases.
Uses & Effectiveness ?
Possibly Effective for
- Nerve pain in people with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy). Taking 600-1800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid by mouth or by IV seems to improve symptoms such as burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms of people with diabetes. It may take 3 to 5 weeks of treatment for symptoms to improve. Lower doses of alpha-lipoic acid don't seem to work.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Taking alpha-lipoic acid for up to 16 weeks seems to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol in people with or without hyperlipidemia.
- Obesity. Some research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid for 2-48 weeks can slightly reduce body weight in adults who are overweight. Some research also shows that alpha-lipoic acid improves body weight in children who are overweight or obese.
Possibly Ineffective for
- Liver disease in people who drink alcohol. Taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for up to 6 months does not improve liver function or reduce liver damage in people with alcohol-related liver disease.
- Altitude sickness. Taking alpha-lipoic acid along with vitamin C and vitamin E does not seem to prevent altitude sickness.
- Nerve damage in the hands and feet caused by cancer drug treatment. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth during chemotherapy with cisplatin or oxaliplatin doesn't seem to reduce nerve damage in the arms and legs caused by the chemotherapy. On the other hand, some early research shows that taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid and other ingredients reduces nerve damage caused by chemotherapy. The other ingredients in this product might be responsible for this benefit.
- Kidney damage caused by contrast dyes (contrast induced nephropathy). Adding alpha-lipoic acid to standard hydration therapy used before and after a coronary angiography doesn't seem to help prevent kidney damage caused by contrast agents.
- Diabetes. Most research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth or intravenously does not improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. But some research shows it might help in some patients. Reasons for these differences may be the length of time that the patient has been diagnosed with diabetes, whether or not the patient already uses antidiabetes drugs, or the purity of the alpha-lipoic acid treatment. Alpha-lipoic acid also does not seem to improve blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes.
- Vision problems in people with diabetes (diabetic retinopathy). Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth daily for 24 months does not improve damage to the retina associated with diabetes.
- Dementia in people with advanced HIV/AIDS. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth has no effect on HIV-related brain problems.
- High levels of fats called triglycerides in the blood (hypertriglyceridemia). Taking alpha-lipoic acid does not seem to reduce triglyceride levels in most people.
Insufficient Evidence for
- An eye disease that leads to vision loss in older adults (age-related macular degeneration or AMD). Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid does not slow down the loss of vision in people with advanced AMD.
- Aging skin. Early research shows that applying cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid might reduce fine lines and skin roughness caused by sun damage. Taking a specific product containing alpha-lipoic acid and other ingredients also seems to improve elasticity and reduce wrinkles and roughness of aging skin. It's unclear if the benefits of the combination product are due to alpha-lipoic acid, other ingredients, or the combination.
- Alzheimer disease. Some early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid in combination with a class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors might slow mental decline in people with Alzheimer disease better than taking cholinesterase inhibitors alone. However, higher quality research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid with vitamin E and vitamin C doesn't improve mental function in people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer disease.
- Mushroom poisoning. The use of alpha-lipoic acid in treating mushroom poisoning is controversial. Some reports suggest it might help, but these reports are unreliable. Some researchers recommend against using alpha-lipoic acid for this purpose.
- Irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). Some people with a type of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation get surgery. However, after surgery, the irregular heartbeat can start again. Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid does not help to prevent this recurrence. But bigger studies are needed.
- Bipolar disorder. Taking alpha-lipoic acid along with acetyl-L-carnitine doesn't seem to improve depression in people with bipolar disorder. The effects of alpha-lipoic acid when taken alone are unclear.
- Burning pain in the mouth. The effect of alpha-lipoic acid in people with burning mouth syndrome is unclear. Some early research suggests that taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day for 2 months improves pain in people with this condition. However, other research suggests that taking 800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid by mouth daily for 2 months doesn't help. Reason for the conflicting results is not entirely clear. However, the cause of burning mouth syndrome might influence whether alpha-lipoic acid is beneficial. There is some early evidence that alpha-lipoic acid might help reduce symptoms of burning mouth syndrome caused by stress but not depression or drug-induced dry mouth. Higher-quality research is needed to confirm these results.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. Taking alpha-lipoic acid might reduce pain by a moderate amount in people with this condition. When taken after surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, taking alpha-lipoic acid doesn't seem to help the nerve recover. But it might prevent pain from developing on the sides of the incision.
- Long-term kidney disease (chronic kidney disease or CKD). Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid might help to control blood sugar in people with a disease called polycystic kidney disease. But it doesn't seem to help prevent plaque build up in blood vessels.
- Surgery to improve blood flow to the heart (CABG surgery). Taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid and other ingredients for up to 2 months before and 1 month after CABG surgery seems to decrease complications from surgery. It's unclear if this benefit is due to alpha-lipoic acid, other ingredients, or the combination.
- Kidney damage in people with diabetes (diabetic nephropathy). Early research shows that giving alpha-lipoic acid by IV, along with alprostadil also by IV, or by IV along with valsartan by mouth, improves markers of kidney damage in people with diabetes and early kidney damage.
- Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea). Taking alpha-lipoic acid just before the start of menstruation might reduce period pain by a small amount. It might also help the medication mefenamic acid work better.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED). Early research shows that giving alpha-lipoic acid with alprostadil by IV increases erections in men with erectile dysfunction (ED).
- A group of eye disorders that can lead to vision loss (glaucoma). Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for 1 month improves visual function in people with glaucoma.
- Heart failure. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin E, and vitamin C reduces pressure in the arteries and improves blood flow in people with heart failure.
- Hemorrhoids. Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for 12 weeks helps improve pain, itching, and bleeding caused by hemorrhoids.
- HIV/AIDS. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for 6 months improves white blood cell counts in people with HIV who did not respond to antiretroviral therapy.
- High blood pressure. Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily with the blood pressure-lowering medication quinapril does not decrease blood pressure compared to taking quinapril alone.
- Prediabetes. Early research suggests that giving alpha-lipoic acid by IV once daily for 2 weeks improves post-meal blood sugar and insulin in people with prediabetes.
- Painful bladder syndrome (interstitial cystitis). Bladder inflammation in women can cause pain in the whole pelvis area. A drug called amitriptyline is sometimes used to help these women. In women already using amitriptyline, taking a specific product containing alpha-lipoic acid and other ingredients seems to reduce pelvic pain and pain with sex. It's unclear if this benefit is due to alpha-lipoic acid, other ingredients, or the combination.
- Conditions in a man that prevent him from getting a woman pregnant within a year of trying to conceive (male infertility). IVF is a procedure where the sperm fertilizes the egg outside of the body. Healthy sperm have a better chance of fertilizing the egg, resulting in pregnancy. Early research shows that when men with sperm problems take a product containing alpha-lipoic acid and other ingredients, there is a better chance of pregnancy success in their partners after IVF.
- Migraine. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for 3 months improves the severity and frequency of migraines. However, it does not improve the number of monthly migraine attacks.
- Neck pain. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid plus superoxide dismutase daily for 2 months reduces chronic neck pain when used along with physiotherapy.
- Build up of fat in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD). Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid with vitamin E daily for 12 weeks doesn't help break down liver fat in people with NAFLD.
- Low blood pressure that occurs upon standing (orthostatic hypotension). Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid might help prevent blood pressure from dropping upon standing in some people.
- Narrowing of blood vessels that causes poor blood flow to the limbs (peripheral arterial disease). Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid twice daily might reduce pain associated with exercise in people with peripheral arterial disease.
- A hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts (polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS). Taking alpha-lipoic acid might help with the control of blood sugar in some women with PCOS. But it doesn't seem to improve hormone levels, body weight, or excessive body hair.
- Preterm birth. During premature labor, the cervix can shorten. This can increase the risk of preterm birth. Early research shows that inserting alpha-lipoic acid into the vagina can prevent the cervix from shortening after premature labor without delivery. But it's not clear if alpha-lipoic acid helps prevent premature birth.
- Radiation exposure. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid alone or together with vitamin E for 28 days might reduce symptoms of radiation exposure in children living near areas contaminated with radiation.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth daily for 12 weeks doesn't improve pain or swelling in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Schizophrenia. One very small study shows that alpha-lipoic acid can improve symptoms of schizophrenia when taken along with prescription medications for this condition. But another early study shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid with certain fatty acids doesn't prevent relapse in people with schizophrenia who respond to prescription medicines.
- Pain due to pressure on the sciatic nerve (sciatica). Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for 60 days improves leg pain and weakness due to damage of the sciatic nerve. However, it does not seem to benefit sleep quality in people with this condition.
- A skin disorder that causes white patches to develop on the skin (vitiligo). Early research suggests that taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid and other ingredients starting 8 weeks before UV phototherapy and continuing during phototherapy treatment increases the effectiveness of phototherapy in people with skin discoloration characterized by white patches.
- Wound healing. Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid one hour before and one hour after hyperbaric oxygen therapy administered daily for 2 to 4 weeks reduces wound area compared to hyperbaric oxygen therapy alone.
- An inherited disorder that causes copper to build up in many organs (Wilson disease).
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Heart disease.
- Lyme disease.
- Other conditions.
When applied to the skin: Alpha-lipoic acid is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when used as a cream for up to 12 weeks.
When given by IV: Alpha-lipoic acid is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when used intravenously (by IV) for up to 3 weeks.
Special Precautions and Warnings
Breastfeeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if alpha-lipoic acid is safe to use when breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children: When taken by mouth in appropriate amounts, alpha-lipoic acid is POSSIBLY SAFE in children aged 10-17 years. When taken by mouth in large amounts, alpha-lipoic acid is POSSIBLY UNSAFE in children. Seizures, vomiting, and unconsciousness has been reported for a 14-month-old girl and a 20-month-old boy who took up to 2400 mg of alpha-lipoic acid in a single dose.
Diabetes: Alpha-lipoic acid can decrease blood sugar levels. Your diabetes medications might need to be adjusted by your healthcare provider.
Surgery: Alpha-lipoic acid can decrease blood sugar levels. In theory, alpha-lipoic acid might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop taking alpha-lipoic acid 2 weeks before elective surgical procedures.
Excessive use of alcohol/thiamine deficiency: Alcohol can lower the amount of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the body. Taking alpha-lipoic acid when there is a shortage of thiamine might cause serious health problems. If you drink a lot of alcohol and take alpha-lipoic acid too, you should take a thiamine supplement.
Thyroid disease: Taking alpha-lipoic acid might interfere with treatments for under-active or over-active thyroid.
Medications for cancer (Chemotherapy) interacts with ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant. There is some concern that antioxidants might decrease the effectiveness of some medications used for cancers. But it is too soon to know if this interaction occurs.
Be cautious with this combination
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID
Alpha-lipoic acid might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking alpha-lipoic acid along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. But more evidence is needed to know if this interaction is a big concern. Monitor your blood sugar closely.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Be watchful with this combination
- For nerve pain in people with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy): 600-1800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day.
- For high levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia): 300-1200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day for up to 16 weeks.
- For obesity: 600-1800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day has been taken for 12-24 weeks.
- For nerve pain in people with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy): 600-1200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day administered by a health care provider.
- For obesity: 300 mg of alpha-lipoic acid has been taken twice daily in children aged 10-17 years.
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