Diabetes

Updated 26 January 2017

Prediabetes may do more damage to nerves than suspected

Early pain and tingling in hands and feet may be the 'canary in the coal mine', researchers say about prediabetes.

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Prediabetes may cause more nerve damage than previously believed, researchers say.

The beginning of nerve deterioration

"The results of this new study add urgency to the need for more screening of those with the condition and faster intervention," said senior study author Dr Michael Polydefkis, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The study included 62 people, including 52 with tingling and pain in their hands and feet – a condition known as neuropathy. Diabetes is a common cause of neuropathy, the researchers said.

Read: The importance of managing your diabetes

Thirteen participants had prediabetes, meaning their blood sugar levels were higher than normal but not yet at the point of diabetes.

Over three years, the researchers found that those with prediabetes had damage over the entire length of small sensory nerve fibres, rather than just at the longest ends first. The findings challenge current understanding of prediabetes-related nerve damage, the researchers said.

The study was published online in the journal JAMA Neurology.

"I liken small-fibre neuropathy to the canary in the coal mine," Polydefkis said in a university news release.

Read: What may cause diabetes

"It signals the beginning of nerve deterioration that with time involves other types of nerve fibres and becomes more apparent and dramatically affects people's quality of life," he explained.

According to the American Diabetes Association, you can reduce your risk of progressing from prediabetes to diabetes by losing 7 percent of your body weight (for example, 14 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) and by exercising moderately 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

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Image: Nervous system from iStock

 

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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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