Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is a type of nerve damage that affects about half of patients with diabetes. Symptoms can be incredibly painful, and most often manifest in the legs and feet. For many years researchers have attributed DPN to factors such as the dying back of nerve cells and loss of nerve cell insulation, but a new study out of the UK and published in the journal Pain finds that DPN can also be traced back to changes within the central nervous system. Dr. Solomon Tesfaye et al. found that when they looked beyond peripheral nerves and started examining the CNS and its relation to DPN, a few key points stood out. Among the CNS changes perceived in patients with DPN are reduction in the brain’s gray-matter in areas where somatosensory perceptions are processed, atrophy in the primary sensory cortex, differences in the cross-sectional width of the spinal cord, differences in blood supply in the thalamus (oversupply associated with painful DPN, undersupply with painless DPN), and changes in higher brain areas involved in detecting and responding to pain. The researchers hope that further studies will enable doctors to better understand and treat DPN.

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