Sunday, 22 November 2015

Yes, Diabetic Neuropathy is Actually Treatable

Neuropathy essentially means nerve damage, and is a common but unfortunately often disabling complication of diabetes. Caused by unabsorbed sugars creating tissue damage, neuropathy results in losses of sensory and motor function, debilitating pain and sometimes foot ulcers which can require amputation. While conventional treatment is limited to education on foot and nail hygiene, early detection of potential ulcers and strong painkillers such as opioids and anti-epileptics, there are nutritional supplements that are actually capable of reversing nerve damage and not just dealing with symptoms.

One of these actual treatments for diabetic neuropathy is acetyl-l-carnitine (ACL). One study, on 333 patients, involved injections of either 1000mg of ACL or a placebo for 10 days, and then being prescribed either 2000mg of ACL or a placebo for another 355 days. After the 12 months were up, the treated patients showed significant improvements in nerve conduction velocity and amplitude, as well as a 39% reduction in pain severity! The greatest average changes in nerve conduction velocity were in the sensory sural nerve at +7 metres/second, the sensory ulnar nerve at +2.9m/second, and the motor peroneal nerve at +2.7m/second. The greatest improvement in amplitude was in the motor peroneal nerve, at +2.2mV. This should be common knowledge, considering that the study was published in 2002.

Another promising treatment may be vitamin B12 injections. These were compared to the drug nortriptyline in 50 patients, and it was found that the vitamin was more effective than the drug! Pain scores dropped 3.66 points on the Visual Analogue Scale as opposed to 0.84 points; paraesthesia dropped by 2.98 units instead of 1.06; and tingling scores fell by 3.48 instead of 1.02 points! As nerve conduction did not improve, perhaps vitamin B12 and ACL could complement each other very well. Sure, you're using two interventions, but they could substitute multiple pharmaceutical prescriptions.

On top of these, a 2003 review titled Botanicals and Dietary Supplements in Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy examined the evidence behind evening primrose oil, alpha-lipoic acid and capsaicin in the treatment of neuropathy. Capsaicin is more of a symptomatic treatment, relieving pain but not healing nerve damage, but it is safe unlike opioids and anti-epileptics. Evening primrose oil, however, was found to increase arm muscle strength by 4.9 points instead of a deterioration of 7.4 points; while arm and leg sensation improved by 6.9 and 15 points as opposed to a deterioration of 7.3 and 8.4 points respectively. Median conduction velocity improved by 1.4-2.4 points instead of decreasing by around 2 points. The most significant improvement was an increase in leg tendon reflex function by 17.7 points! Alpha-lipoic acid is valued for its antioxidant abilities, capable of regenerating vitamins C and E, and can also improve energy metabolism. The research evaluated described reductions in pain and disability scores and improvement in sensory and nerve conduction velocities,  with the sural sensory NCV improving by 3-3.8m/second. 
So diabetic neuropathy is treatable in more ways than just dealing with the symptoms, you just have to know where to look.

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