By: Diana Barnes Brown for Diabetes1
New research published in the December 2003 Diabetes Care suggests that relief may be on the horizon for diabetics who suffer from diabetes-related nerve degeneration and associated problems, such as foot ulcers and balance difficulties.
Many diabetics suffer from nerve damage in the legs and feet, and one of the dangers associated with nerve damage is that patients’ ability to perceive and react to pain is diminished. The result is that small abrasions or injuries may not be noticed or cared for as they would by a person with normal nerve function, leading to more severe problems, such as foot ulcers, down the road.
If doctors were able to improve nerve function in diabetics, thereby improving patients ability to perceive pain, they would likely be able to decrease the occurrence of diabetic foot ulcers significantly. With this in mind, Aristides Veves of the Beth Deaconess Israel Medical Center in Boston recently conducted a study with colleagues from the hospital and researchers from the Afferent Corporation of Rhode Island that tested the efficacy of sound vibrations in improving nerve function in diabetics.
In a study of 20 patients, Veves and his team found that exposing the bottoms of patients’ feet to imperceptible vibrations improved sensation in the area. While Veves acknowledged that further research is still needed, he also noted that if the treatment can improve nerve function in the long term, it might indeed be instrumental in significantly reducing the instance of diabetic foot ulcers.
Additionally, a study published in the October 4, 2003 issue of The Lancet suggested that vibrating insoles might be useful in improving balance in elderly patients who had lost some sensation in their feet. This application, if supported by further research, would be helpful for diabetics, as well, by reducing the likelihood of falls, which often lead to broken bones for diabetics due to the bone loss associated with the disease.
The Afferent Corporation has been working to develop vibrating insoles for a variety of applications in the medical field.