Most people who are treated with spinal cord stimulation due to painful diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage, achieve long-term relief, according to a new study from the Netherlands. As many as 70% of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy, as stated by the National Institutes of Health.
Chronically high blood sugar levels can damage nerves throughout the body, including in the peripheral nervous system, which is responsible for transmitting information to and from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy include pain, tingling, and numbness in the hands, feet, arms, and legs. Currently, only an estimated 40% to 60% of affected people achieve partial relief.
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) involves using a mild electric current to block pain impulses in the spine via the use of a small current generator connected to the space at the top of the spine with wires. Previous research has indicated that this method of treatment successfully relieves neuropathy pain, but participants in the studies were only followed for six months.
To determine whether SCS can control neuropathy pain over the longer term, researchers from Maastricht University Medical Centre conducted a 24-month follow-up of 17 participants from an earlier trial who had received benefits from the device.
At the end of the two-year period, 47% of participants reported a 50% pain reduction during the day and 35% reported a 50% pain reduction during the night. Additionally, 53% of participants reported a significant overall improvement in their pain levels and sleep quality, leading the researchers to conclude that SCS can successfully relieve neuropathy pain on a longer-term basis.
“Spinal cord stimulation serves as a successful last resort treatment…for the duration of at least two years in 65% of diabetic patients with painful neuropathy,” said researcher Dr. Maarten van Beek in an e-mail to Reuters Health.
For more information, read the article “Spinal Cord Stimulation Benefit Ongoing in Diabetic Neuropathy” or see the study in the journal Diabetes Care. And for more information about dealing with neuropathy, read the article “Controlling Neuropathic Pain: Tips From an Occupational Therapist.”
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