Diabetes is a disease that affects more than just the pancreas. Diabetic patients have an increased risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease, and even blindness. Diabetic patients often develop painful peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage, as a result of their condition. Historically, treatments for peripheral neuropathy have been limited to managing blood sugar levels in an effort to slow the progression of the disease. Other treatments manage nerve pain with pain relievers or prescription medications – some of which have serious side effects. New technologies and treatments like SVF therapy are changing how diabetic nerve pain is treated – and showing promising results.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy happens as a result of the body’s exposure to consistently high blood glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association estimates that over 30 million Americans are living with diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy affects 50 percent of this group and is common among both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics. Women who develop gestational diabetes are also at risk for developing peripheral nerve pain.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a painful nerve condition often characterized by numbness or tingling and sharp pain in the extremities. Neuropathy weakens the muscles and numbness impact the balance, making walking or standing difficult. Patients may also have a decreased sensitivity to temperatures and pain. Decreased sensitivity means patients may suffer injuries like burns or cuts and not know they are injured. For others who are suffering from peripheral neuropathy, the condition causes the development of painful sores on the lower legs and feet. These wounds take a long time to heal and leave the patient at risk for infection and amputation. Fine motor abilities may also be reduced as a result of nerve damage.
The condition can also develop as a result of high blood pressure, which is a health complication for many diabetics. The onset of diabetic peripheral neuropathy is slow, and symptoms are initially subtle. Patients may not notice they even have symptoms until their condition becomes full-blown. Neuropathy is normally diagnosed through physical examination of the feet among other tests after a patient describes their symptoms to their physician.
Many sufferers report a diminished quality of life because of this disease. Patients become depressed because normal activities become painful or difficult. Traditional treatments for diabetic peripheral neuropathy also have a negative effect on the neuropathy sufferers’ quality of life because the medications used to treat neuropathy pain cause symptoms like dizziness, dry mouth, and excessive sweating.
SVF, or stromal vascular fraction, is a stem cell therapy that has been found to treat diabetic nerve pain and positively changing health outcomes for many diabetic neuropathy sufferers. Dr. Bill Johnson, M.D., is a using SVF stem cell therapy to treat neuropathy patients in Dallas, Texas. “Our diabetic neuropathy patients have experienced pain relief as a result of SVF therapy – on average at a rate that is faster than traditional treatments.”
The SVF stem cell therapy uses mesenchymal stem cells. Mesenchymal stem cells develop into the tissues that make up the body’s lymphatic and circulatory systems. Mesenchymal stem cells also make up the connective tissue found in joints, tendons, and adipose fat. Some mesenchymal cells develop into bone, which is also used for certain stem cell therapies.
SVF therapy uses mesenchymal adipose fat cells that are harvested from the patient’s body. Harvesting fat cells is much easier than collecting other mesenchymal cells, like the ones found in bone marrow. The outpatient procedure uses a blunt hollow tube called a cannula, to remove fat from the stomach or leg. Harvesting is minimally invasive, requires only a local anesthetic and has a quick recovery time.
These cells are separated from blood and other tissue, are processed and reintroduced into the body intravenously. Johnson explains what happens next. “The stem cells, once reintroduced into the body become engrafted, or incorporated, go to work,” he says.
The cells, which are programmed during processing, attack and reduce areas of inflammation. “When inflammation is reduced or eliminated, pain is reduced or eliminated,” says Johnson. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy patients undergoing SVF treatment with Johnson experience pain relief quickly, versus other treatments. “Our patients report a reduction of pain in just a few weeks compared to other therapies that can take months to take effect – or never take effect at all,” says Johnson.
SVF stem cell treatments have been proven for pain relief, but are not able to currently restore feeling in patients with numbness. Most patients who have had neuropathy for any length of time are still thrilled to become pain-free says, Johnson. “While SVF therapy does not always restore feeling that has been lost, patients who have experienced long periods living with diabetic nerve pain are still overjoyed when their pain is eliminated.”
In addition to treating neuropathy pain in diabetic patients, Johnson uses SVF stem cell therapy to treat other types of neuropathy, such as nerve pain caused by chemotherapy, illness or trauma.