The influence of local capsaicin treatment on small nerve fibre function and neurovascular control in symptomatic diabetic neuropathy
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Topical treatment wit capsaicin cream has been shown to be successful in the treatment of different symptomatic nerve disorders like diabetic neuropathy. Conflicting data exist on the effect of capsaicin on nerve function and neurovascular control especially in patients with diabetic neuropathy. The aim of this pilot study was to investigate the impact of topical capsaicin application on small nerve fibre function and neurovascular control. Capsaicin cream was applied to the feet of 13 patients with symptomatc diabetic neuropathy over a period of 8 weeks. Before and during the treatment period, we investigated the total symptoms score, the vibration, thermal (heat and cold) and pain perception thresholds, and the neurovascular responses to heat and acetylcholine stimuli. In addition, the serum plasma levels of substance P, a neurotransmitter of nociceptor C-fibres, were measured. A significant improvement in total symptoms score was observed during topical capsaicin treament (18.3±3.2 vs. 14.3±3.3; p<0.05). An improvement in the heat perception threshold was also found (12.7±0.4°C vs. 11.4±0.7°C; p<0.05), while other sensory nerve fibre functions remained unchanged. No significant change in neurovascular control was observed, neither after mild thermal injury nor after stimulation with acetylcholine. Serum substance P levels increased after initiation of topical capsaicin treatment (72.9±5.8 pg/ml vs. 81.7±5.0 pg/ml; p<0.05), but returned to baseline levels during further treatment (77.4±8.3 pg/ml; n. s.). In conclusion, topical treatment with capsaicin cream over a period of 8 weeks in patients with symptomatic diabetic neuropathy is effective without adverse effects on nerve fibre function or neurovascular control.
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