Diabetic neuropathies are a family of nerve disorders caused by diabetes. People with diabetes can, over time, develop nerve damage throughout the body. Some people with nerve damage have no symptoms. Others may have symptoms such as pain, tingling, or numbness—loss of feeling—in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Nerve problems can occur in every organ system, including the digestive tract, heart, and sex organs.
About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy. People with diabetes can develop nerve problems at any time, but risk rises with age and longer duration of diabetes. The highest rates of neuropathy are among people who have had diabetes for at least 25 years. Diabetic neuropathies also appear to be more common in people who have problems controlling their blood glucose, also called blood sugar, as well as those with high levels of blood fat and blood pressure and those who are overweight.
The causes are probably different for different types of diabetic neuropathy. Researchers are studying how prolonged exposure to high blood glucose causes nerve damage. Nerve damage is likely due to a combination of factors:
Symptoms depend on the type of neuropathy and which nerves are affected. Some people with nerve damage have no symptoms at all. For others, the first symptom is often numbness, tingling, or pain in the feet. Symptoms are often minor at first, and because most nerve damage occurs over several years, mild cases may go unnoticed for a long time. Symptoms can involve the sensory, motor, and autonomic—or involuntary—nervous systems. In some people, mainly those with what is called focal neuropathy, the onset of pain may be sudden and severe.
Symptoms that are not due to neuropathy, but often accompany it, include weight loss and depression.
Peripheral neuropathy, also called distal symmetric neuropathy or sensorimotor neuropathy, is nerve damage in the arms and legs. Your feet and legs are likely to be affected before your hands and arms. These symptoms are often worse at night.
Peripheral neuropathy may also cause muscle weakness and loss of reflexes, especially at the ankle, leading to changes in the way a person walks. Foot deformities, such as hammertoes and the collapse of the midfoot, may occur. Blisters and sores may appear on numb areas of the foot because pressure or injury goes unnoticed. If foot injuries are not treated promptly, the infection may spread to the bone, and the foot may then have to be amputated. Some experts estimate that half of all such amputations are preventable if minor problems are caught and treated in time.
Typically, patients are treated with prescription Lyrica and/or Gabapentin to address the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. These drugs are fraught with side effects, rarely, help alleviate the symptoms completely and DO NOT stop the progression or long term effects of peripheral neuropathy! At best, these are imperfect stop gaps for a progressive illness.
In addition, they do not deal with the common erectile dysfunction seen in diabetic men (which is most likely a neuropathy as well). Even drugs like Viagra do not seem to completely help many diabetic men with erectile dysfunction.
Often, as a result of small blood vessel changes in the brain of diabetics, memory and even cognition can be adversely affected. Conventional medicine has NO real way at present of effectively addressing these issues.
I have successfully treated the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy with intravenous and after oral high dose alpha lipoic acid as is the standard in much of Europe. This is an intensive 3 week program (one IV daily Monday- Friday for 3 weeks lasting approximately 1.5 hours each time). The therapy is combined with a cadre of specially selected oral supplements that I provide with your treatments that make the IV much more effective and counter any nutrient depletions associated with the use of alpha lipoic acid. Later on, IV’s with Vitamin C and acetyl- l- carnitine are infused and oral supplements are continued. Patients receive relief, often, within the first week and even more relief at the end of the 3 week period. The continued treatments after the first 3 weeks are designed to keep the symptoms away and to begin to REVERSE AND REPAIR the nerve damage as much as possible. This is a one year process. In addition, I use “cold laser” and magnet therapy when appropriate
All the while, the treatments will, along with brain “exercises” and increased physical activity improve cognition and memory.
For those with ED (erectile dysfunction) I add another form of l- carnitine supplement that when coupled with testosterone (in those that need it) and a phosphodiesterase inhibitor (like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra) and my arousal blend of herbs SIGNIFICANTLY helps diabetic men obtain a strong and long lasting erections and a more powerful ejaculation than they would be able to attain with a prescription ED pill alone.
So, my treatment plan gives relatively rapid relief to those suffering the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and aims at as much repair as possible of already damaged nerves. Incidentally, improvements are seen REGARDLESS of your blood sugar control and do not seem to be related to the length of time you have had a neuropathy. It is important to note that your blood glucose levels will drop, especially in the first 3 weeks of IV therapy and so will your blood pressure if you are hypertensive. The therapy may also help prevent diabetic nephropathy (renal disease).
The treatment plan I have outlined is somewhat different IF you have had seizures at any time in the past or recently and/or if you have thyroid disease. My treatment program lasts for a year, with the biggest time commitment from you in the first 3 weeks because of the IV’s. This is all CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) and as such is not a covered benefit of any insurance program- including Medicare. If you would like more information about the cost of care and the payment programs available which includes supplements and the IV’s, please call my office at 480 661 1880.