Researchers investigate nerve damage among individuals with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes

Many physicians warn their patients who have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes that poor diabetes management may result in painful nerve damage.

Individuals who develop nerve damage may experience tinging or numbness in their hands and feet.

A recent study published in the journal Brain investigated disparities among diabetic and healthy participants' ability to regenerate nerve cells.

The researchers took 3 mm biopsies from the thigh of each subject at the onset of the investigation, followed by another 4 mm sample several months later.

The study's results showed that blood vessels and nerve-supporting cells - called Schwann cells - regenerated faster in healthy participants and helped repair the damage caused by the original biopsy.

"Our results suggest that regenerative abnormalities associated with diabetes are widespread. They're not just affecting nerves - they're also affecting blood vessel growth and Schwann cell proliferation," said lead researcher Michael Polydefkis, MD.

He noted that the slow regeneration of blood vessels may also play a role in the high prevalence of heart problems among individuals with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

The scientists said their findings indicate that future therapies for diabetic neuropathy should focus on stimulating blood vessel and Schwann cell growth, as opposed to the nerve cells themselves.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, diabetic neuropathy typically occurs between 10 and 20 years after a person has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. About 50 percent of diabetics develop the condition.

However, lowering blood sugar levels and promoting healthy blood circulation through regular exercise can help reduce an individual's risk of diabetic neuropathy.

The organization notes that it is important for patients with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes to see a physician for regular foot exams, which include an ankle reflex test and a visual screening for cuts or blisters that have not healed in a timely fashion.