Diabetes & Pain Management: New Findings
Many people are familiar with diabetes; they know that there are two different types, that type 2 is related to being overweight, and that the disease is often treated with injections of insulin.
What fewer people are familiar with is the fact that there are many health complications associated with diabetes. Pregnant women are faced with a greater risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, sexual dysfunction can become a problem, and the arteries can narrow, leading to heart disease.
One symptom that can be particularly difficult to live with is nerve damage, which can happen as a result of high blood glucose levels. This nerve damage can lead to peripheral neuropathy, a condition that causes burning or tingling sensations, stabbing pain and muscle weakness in the hands and feet.
For certain sufferers, the neuropathy can become so severe that the slightest pressure on the skin of the hands or feet causes agonising pain. Currently, there are a number of different treatments used to manage diabetic neuropathy. However, following a recent study in Germany, it looks as though a brand new treatment is on its way.
As reported here, researchers have discovered a chemical agent that seems to block the nerve signals that channel pain. Currently, nerve damage cannot be reversed, but the research team involved hopes that this new discovery lets the medical community take a step closer towards resolving neuropathy issues in diabetic patients.
The main advantage of this potential treatment (which has been tested on mice and is now set for human trials) is that it acts directly on nerve receptors in the skin, instead of affecting the body’s central nervous system. For this reason, the researchers hope to steer clear of some of the dangerous side effects associated with other medicines used to treat neuropathy.
It’s still early days for this new treatment; until such a medicine is approved for use, diabetic patients have a number of options available to them when it comes to pain management. Read on to learn more about these treatments.
Good Diabetes Management
The first step in managing neuropathy is keeping your diabetes under control. The worse the management of your diabetes, the more likely you are to develop nerve damage.
Lifestyle changes associated with diabetes management involve losing weight, taking more exercise and eating a healthy diet. However, it’s also important to make sure you are using any prescription medication correctly. If you feel that your diabetes might be out of control, you should speak to your doctor.
Pain Relief Medication
Several different types of medication can be prescribed to treat neuropathy. The most common are:
- amitriptyline (also used for headaches and depression)
- duloxetine (also used for bladder issues and depression)
- pregabalin and gabapentin (also used for epilepsy, headaches and anxiety)
If you do not respond to these medications, your doctor may prescribe a strong painkiller like tramadol. Because this medicine can become addictive, it is normally only prescribed for a short period – usually it will be used to treat bouts of particularly bad neuropathic pain, and not on a regular basis.
Topical treatments are ones applied directly to the skin, and are a good option for people who experience pain in specific areas, or who do not want/cannot take the medications listed above. Two common topical treatments for neuropathy are:
- capsaicin cream (rubbed directly into the painful area)
- a lidocaine plaster (applied to the painful area)
Capsaicin cream contains the chemical that gives chilli peppers their spicy heat. When applied to the skin it is an effective form of pain relief; it's thought to work by blocking pain signals to the brain.
A lidocaine plaster contains local anaesthetic, and when stuck onto the painful area of skin, works to numb that pain.
Finding the Right Treatment for You
The main thing to bear in mind when treating diabetic neuropathy is that everyone is different. It may take you some time to find the right treatment for your pain. However, you shouldn’t lose hope – there are many options out there and, as evidenced by the latest research, new developments are cropping up all the time.
To read more about pain relief, click here and visit The Online Clinic’s Pain Management page.