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Diabetes Channel
Reported November 26, 2003

Reversing Nerve Damage

Reversing Nerve DamageNORFOLK, Va. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Sixty percent of people with diabetes will eventually develop nerve damage, which can lead to foot ulcers and amputations. While there are therapies to treat the disease, no treatment currently available can reverse it. Now, doctors say they may have found one.

This may look easy, but for Greg Stone, walking is becoming a challenging chore. “I started losing feeling in my toes," he says. "They started feeling numb.”

Stone has diabetes. He also has neuropathy -- or nerve damage -- a complication that affects 60 percent of diabetics. “I’m losing more and more feeling all the time. The tingling gets worse and then after the tingling, things get numb, and then after a while, you have no feeling at all.”

Reversing Nerve DamageEndocrinologist Aaron Vinik, M.D., from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, hopes this drug will change Stone's future. Dr. Vinik says, “This compound improves the blood supply to the nerves, so it addresses the basic biology of nerve damage.”

By improving blood supply, PKC inhibitors slow the progression of neuropathy and even reverse it. “Currently, there is no treatment for diabetic neuropathy, so this is the first in its class of compounds that would address the underlying disease,” Dr. Vinik says.

The drug could potentially prevent foot ulcers in diabetics, which would ultimately prevent amputations. There are 85,000 amputations each year. Most of them are a result of neuropathy.

Reversing Nerve DamageStone applauds the research. He says, “I think we’re on the edge of a whole new generation of potential drugs that are coming that will see the day when neuropathy can be treated.” And he’s looking forward to the future. “One of these days, there’s hope that someday again in the future, I can regain the feeling that I’ve already lost.”

After 25 years, 60 percent of patients with diabetes have neuropathy. Twelve percent of diabetics already have the complication at the time of diagnosis. Maintaining optimal blood sugar control can reduce the risk of neuropathy by more than 50 percent.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Aaron Vinik, M.D.
Strelitz Diabetes Institutes of Eastern Virginia Medical School
P.O. Box 1980
Norfolk, VA 23501
(757) 446-5912

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