Medical Moment: A new treatment for diabetic neuropathy

Published: Nov. 25, 2022 at 1:56 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - November is National Diabetes Awareness Month! 37,000,000 Americans have diabetes - a condition where your body doesn’t make insulin, or doesn’t use it well.

50 to 70 percent of people with diabetes also struggle with a serious condition called “diabetic neuropathy.” Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that causes numbness and pain in the legs and feet.

Now, a new treatment uses stimulation to treat it.

Alice Ortiz calls herself a city girl turned country. But living on a 10-acre farm and keeping up with cows, goats, and chickens has been tough for the past six years.

Alice has diabetic neuropathy.

“It started with like, tingling and a little bit of burning and numbness,” Ortiz recalled.

But the pain got worse. Much worse. Making it difficult to even be on her feet.

“Diabetic neuropathy took over my life. I mean, living with pain 24/7 is not, it’s not easy,” Ortiz explained.

Ortiz was treated with medication. She tried Gabapentin. She tried Cymbalta. She tried Lyrica. None of them worked for her.

“Unfortunately, until recently, there really was no next step,” said William Raoofi, MD, a pain management specialist at Mercy Medical Center.

Now, a treatment that is newly approved for diabetic neuropathy is bringing relief!

“I describe it as, kind of, like, a cardiac pacemaker, but for the nervous,” said Dr. Raoofi.

It’s called the Nevro HFX, a spinal cord stimulator that transmits mild electrical pulses to the spinal cord.

“It’s done through a very small needle that’s put in someone’s back, similar to an epidural,” Dr. Raoofi said.

The device is connected to a pulse generator that sends the electric current to the spine.

“It was like a light switch,” Ortiz said. “The pain totally went away.”

Now, Alice is able to vacation and cruise with her family, and finally, can get into her dream ride.

“I own a Jeep. I drive it all the time. And that was on my bucket list. There’s nothing out there that I cannot do,” Ortiz finished.

Spinal cord stimulation has been approved for other conditions like back pain, but has only been approved for a year for diabetic neuropathy.