Many patients who suffer from diabetes also suffer from pain.   This pain is often caused by a condition called diabetic peripheral neuropathy, or DPN.  Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy is a non-inflammatory disease process associated with diabetes mellitus and is characterized by sensory and/or motor disturbances in the peripheral nervous system.

 

What causes DPN?
DPN results when the nerves have had prolonged exposure to high amounts of glucose in the blood stream as a result of diabetes.  This damages the nerves and can cause pain, loss of sensation, loss in reflexes, and muscle weakness.  There has been a 14 percent increase in the number of people with diabetes in America over the last 2 years, and about 60 to 70 percent of individuals with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage.

What are the symptoms of DPN?
The symptoms brought on by DPN can vary for each person; however, common symptoms include:

  • Paresthesia (burning, tingling and itching sensations)
  • Complete or partial loss of sensitivity to touch and temperature
  • Hyperesthesia (i.e. pain caused by touch, even light touch)
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Other feelings of pain such as cramping, crushing or tearing

 

How is DPN treated?
Currently available treatments for DPN are typically aimed at relief of symptoms. Treatments currently used for these symptoms include antidepressants, topical creams, and NSAIDS or opioids. Better glucose control may also help relieve symptoms.  Unfortunately these therapies have fallen short in their ability to treat the symptoms of DPN for the many who suffer from it.

What are we doing about it?
The goal of the Translational Pain Research group is to discover new and effective therapies for the pain associated with DPN.  In doing so we hope to provide a better quality of life for those who are affected by this condition.

If you are interested in learning more about our diabetes pain research studies, please call us at 617-525-PAIN or email us at paintrials@partners.org.

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