A commonly-used drug to treat erectile dysfunction could be effective in treating long-term diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy is the most common complication of diabetes and causes painful, life-threatening nerve damage in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital, United States tested sildenafil, known widely as Viagra, on male mice with diabetes. The mice used were 36 weeks old, which correlates to middle age in human years.
15 mice were treated orally with sildenafil for eight weeks, while another group of 15 mice were given a saline solution daily.
Nerve and function tests were conducted on both groups of mice, with researchers observing that compared to the saline-treated mice, sildenafil improved sensory function starting at six weeks.
“These data indicate that sildenafil improves neurological function even in middle-aged mice with long-term diabetic peripheral neuropathy,” said lead author Dr. Lei Wang, M.D.
Human treatment
In humans, sildenafil works by widening blood vessels and improving blood flow to the penis following sexual arousal. Previous studies have shown that patients with diabetes who took Viagra displayed fewer symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
Wang and his team have stressed that their findings are experimental, but hope that the development of a sildenafil treatment could result in a treatment for long-term diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
To prevent diabetic peripheral neuropathy from developing, maintaining good control over blood glucose levels is recommended through diet and regular exercise.

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