Monday, 9 September 2013

Blocking Calcium Channels May Help With Neuropathic Pain

Today's post from (see link below) talks about how neuropathic pain and other symptoms can be helped by blocking calcium channels with certain drugs. It is directed (as so many are) at diabetes patients who end up with neuropathy as a result of glucose imbalance but although diabetes is by far the most common cause of neuropathy, the treatments are very much the same whatever the cause. If you're an experienced neuropathy patient, you may have heard that many drugs block sodium channels to achieve the same result; this treatment is an alternative and claims to work on the nerves rather than the brain although which specific treatment they are talking about is not mentioned. Many neuropathy treatments involve taking anti-depressants or anti-convulsants and these act on these channels in the brain so whether this medication is in the same family or not is unclear. If one of the side effects is that it makes patients sleepy then it is clearly having an effect on nerve cells in the brain anyway. 

Reversing Painful Diabetic Neuropathy: Blocking the calcium channel floodgates may be the answer.
August 27, 2013

This article originally posted 22 August, 2013 and appeared in Neuropathy, Issue 691

Discovery Shows the Way to Reverse Diabetic Nerve Pain

New information on one of diabetes' most debilitating complications….

Diabetic neuropathy affects approximately 60-70% of people with diabetes. For such a common problem that affects patients with diabetes, little is known about peripheral neuropathy. Patients with diabetes who are suffering from peripheral neuropathy talk of how terrible it is to live with the condition: how a gentle touch can be agonizing and how a warm shower can be torturous. But, at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, new research has shed some more light on peripheral neuropathy's causes and may eventually suggest a way to reverse it.

"Normally pain is useful information because it alerts us that there is a damaging effect – something happening to tissues. But this pain is typically without any obvious reason," UVA researcher and anesthesiologist Dr. Slobodan M. Todorovic explains. "It's because nerves are being affected by high levels of glucose in the blood. So nerves start working on their own and start sending pain signals to the brain. It can be a debilitating condition that severely affects quality of life."

Dr. Slobodan Todorovic and Dr. Vesna Jevtoviv-Todorovic, Harold Carron Professor of Anethesiology and Neuroscience at UVA, have demonstrated the reversal of peripheral diabetic neuropathy in mice through the use of a substance that is naturally present in both humans and animals.

The researchers and their colleagues discovered that the high levels of blood sugar cause a change to the structure of channels that allow for the release of calcium into the nerve cells. This in effect forces them open and the overload of calcium into the cells causes them to become hyperactive. This high level of activity can lead to various effects, such as a slight tingling in the arms and legs or an excruciating pain.

Knowing this may prove to extremely important not only in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy, but in other conditions such as nerve injury from an accident, a wound received in combat or other causes for chronic pain. Dr. Todorovic stated that he and his research team found that the function of these calcium channels is similarly affected in these conditions.

The Todorovics said that finding more treatment options for diabetic neuropathy is very important because of the increasing prevalence of diabetes and the lack of therapeutic options. They go on to say that a commonly used drug was helpful for some but not all patients, often times causing considerable fatigue.

"A lot of patients decide to cope with the pain rather than to be sleepy all day," Todorovic said. However, the substance the University of Virginia researchers are testing in their study does not cause drowsiness. This is due to the fact that it works on the nerves rather than in the brain. "In some ways, you can think about it as going back to the baseline," Jevtovic-Todorovic said. "It's not a complete blockade; it’s a normalization."

The new findings have been published online by the journal Diabetes and will appear in a forthcoming print edition. The UVA researchers hope that reversing the early stages of diabetic neuropathy could prevent the complete loss of feeling associated with the advanced stages of the disease.

University of Virginia Press Release

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