Over the weekend, researchers from Eastern Virginia Medical School presented their study that shows the anti-epileptic drug topiramate improves diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage.Topiramate (Topamax) has long been used to treat epilepsy, and recent research shows it can also promote significant weight loss. In a small study of people with type 2 diabetes, the drug showed evidence of improving symptoms and markers of neuropathy. Neuropathy is damage to the nerves that produces pain, impaired heat and pain perception, and disordered skin blood flow that predisposes a person to skin ulcers. Those ulcers can often be cause for amputation.
Aaron Vinik, M.D., from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, presented the results of a study in which he and colleagues gave a daily dose of topiramate (no more than 100 milligrams/day) to 11 participants with neuropathy. At the end of the eight-week study, markers of neuropathy -- dendrite length, intraepidermal nerve fiber density and peroneal nerve amplitude -- all increased in the patients. What that means, explains Dr. Vinik, is that the nerves were healing. Patients also experienced increased sensitivity to touch and a significant reduction in pain.
There are other benefits of the drug for type 2 diabetes patients as well, says Dr. Vinik. His study shows the drug reduced triglycerides, decreased hemoglobin A1C levels (a measure of long-term blood sugar control), lowered LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and lowered total cholesterol. Since about 65 percent of people with diabetes will die of heart disease, these are significant benefits for patients.