Treatment of Diabetic Sensory Polyneuropathy
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No current disease-modifying treatments have been shown definitively in randomized clinical trials to reduce or reverse diabetic sensory polyneuropathy (DSP). It is increasingly recognized that individuals with “prediabetes” or impaired glucose regulation can already have a “small-fiber” neuropathy, or mild DSP, in which sensory axons of both small and larger diameter are damaged. Small-fiber neuropathy is frequently associated with pain, and these patients may present to a neurologist for evaluation before the underlying glucose dysregulation has been diagnosed. It is important to identify these individuals, because aggressive diabetic control and lifestyle interventions can delay the onset of diabetes and may reverse small-fiber neuropathy associated with early diabetes mellitus. Although treatment currently focuses on pain associated with DSP, attention should be paid to potential risk factors for neuropathy. For example, glycemic control and hyperlipidemia should be improved with diet, exercise, and medications. Hypertension that is a risk marker for more severe neuropathy should be treated. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin-receptor blockers not only treat hypertension but also may directly reduce the progression of neuropathy. Class I or II clinical studies support the use of sodium valproate, pregabalin, duloxetine, amitriptyline, gabapentin, venlafaxine, opioids, and topical capsaicin in treating diabetic neuropathic pain. Pregabalin and gabapentin are relatively well tolerated and have few medication interactions. Sodium valproate has been shown to be effective but is not recommended for use in women of childbearing potential, and patients must be monitored for hepatotoxicity and thrombocytopenia. Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline are often used for nocturnal pain but require caution in the elderly or anyone with cardiac disease. Venlafaxine and duloxetine successfully treat neuropathic pain independently of their effect on depression. Opioid medications are associated with a high rate of adverse effects but with careful monitoring, they can be effective in treating resistant neuropathic pain. Capsaicin is an effective topical treatment that lacks systemic side effects. The lidocaine patch is effective in relieving pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia, but only class III evidence supports its use for diabetic neuropathic pain. No current Class I or II studies support other treatment modalities.
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- Treatment of Diabetic Sensory Polyneuropathy
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