Understanding The Use of Alpha-Lipoic Acid in the Treatment of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

The Use of Alpha-Lipoic Acid in the Treatment of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

feetDiabetes is a chronic disease that is associated with many long-term complications that can negatively impact a patient’s quality of life. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), or nerve pain, is one of the most common of them all. In DPN, as a result of damage to your nerves, there can be loss of feeling, muscle weakness, numbness, and pain. Over 50% of people with diabetes show some signs of nerve damage, and these symptoms are most common in the palms of the hands and in the feet. If untreated, nerve damage can lead to poor awareness of foot injuries and develop into serious infections.

There are many ways to prevent the onset of DPN, including taking good care of your feet, following a healthy diet and keeping your blood sugar well-controlled. In addition, there are certain prescription drugs that can be prescribed to help the pain. ALA (Alpha-Lipoic Acid) is an over-the-counter supplement available in stores and pharmacies that has been widely used around the world for several different reasons. ALA is a natural antioxidant and low amounts of it can be found in spinach, broccoli and tomatoes. Small amounts of ALA can be made by our bodies as well. ALA has many different functions, such as improving the activity of enzymes that protect the body (which leads to less damaged nerves) and increasing blood flow to the palms and feet (which can prevent nerve pain). For these reasons, the use of ALA supplements in the treatment of DPN has been widely studied.

There have been several studies conducted to look at the benefit of ALA in treating the symptoms associated with nerve damage. Some studies, which looked at injections of alpha-lipoic acid, showed reductions in pain, tingling, and numbness. Other studies, which looked at the benefit of ALA supplements, also showed improvements in nerve pain and other symptoms of DPN. One study even found that ALA worked as well as some expensive prescription medications. Compared to common pain medications, ALA has fewer side effects, works faster, and may improve pain and muscle strength.

ALA, in general, is safe to take. Common side effects are nausea and diarrhea with doses higher than 600mg. For this reason, the recommended starting dose is 300-600mg taken once a day. Most studies suggest that 600mg of ALA once a day is the best dose to take. The highest dose allowed is 1800mg a day, but this dose would likely have the most side effects. There are no identified drug interactions between ALA and other medications. However, in addition to helping with DPN, ALA may lower blood sugar so if started you should monitor your blood sugar closely.

ALA has shown short-term improvement in mild symptoms of nerve pain. ALA is a well-studied supplement and has been shown to be both safe and effective for patients with DPN. Although doses range from 300-1800mg per day, 600mg of ALA per day provides the most benefit while reducing the risk of side effects. However, before starting this supplement, you should consult with your physician to see if ALA is right for your needs.

This article is brought to you by our guest writers:
Kevork Ourfalian, PharmD, Medical Affairs Fellow, Becton Dickinson, MCPHS University and
Damian Bialonczyk, PharmD, MBA, Medical Affairs Fellow, Becton Dickinson, MCPHS University and
Jennifer Goldman, PharmD, CDE, BC-ADM, FCCP, Professor of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy-Boston, MCPHS University, Boston, MA, Clinical Pharmacist, Well Life Medical, Peabody, MA

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