Backing It Up

Nerve damage from diabetic neuropathy, most commonly found in the arms and legs, may occur in the spinal cord as well, say researchers in the United Kingdom. Simon E.M. Eaton, MRCP, of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, and colleagues found that nerve damage was found in the spines of patients with diabetes. Results of the study were published in the July 7 issue of The Lancet.

Researchers studied the spinal cords of 39 patients—19 who had diabetic neuropathy, 10 with diabetes but no nerve damage and 10 healthy patients. The patients with neuropathy displayed nerve damage in two sections of the spine where the areas were smaller, according to the researchers, although the cause of the damage is not clear. They suggest that peripheral nerve damage may cause portions of the spinal cord to shrink or that damage to the spinal cord causes nerves in other parts of the body to become injured.

Despite these ambiguities, researchers write that these findings provide "an important direction" for research in neuropathy.

"Our study in fact does show involvement of the spinal cord with marked ‘shrinkage’ in those who have established neuropathy. This opens up a whole new area for further research," Solomon Tesfaye, MD, one of the researchers, told Reuters Health.

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