Role of Alpha Lipoic Acid in the Treatment of Neuropathy

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA or thioctic acid), is a sulfur-containing molecule that is synthesized in body from a fatty acid called octanoic acid. The primary established use for alpha-lipoic acid is the therapy of diabetic neuropathy. Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy. There are 4 types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, focal, and proximal. When occurring in the extremities, neuropathy can lead to pain, tingling, and numbness. Diabetic neuropathy results as a consequence of harm to nerves caused by periods of high blood sugar. High blood sugar can injure nerve fibers throughout your body, however diabetic neuropathy typically damages nerves in your legs and feet.

Alpha Lipoic Acid Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment and Studies

ALA is a strong lipophilic free radical scavenger of peripheral nerve both in vitro and in vivo. ALA protects nerves through its antioxidant properties, which improve blood flow to nerves and helps maintain rapid nerve conduction speed. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common and painful complications of diabetes. For patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy, alpha-lipoic acid may help to alleviate pain, itching and numbness. Generally, the available research demonstrates that therapy with 600 mg/day of intravenous alpha lipoic acid for 3 weeks significantly reduces the symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Oral and Intravenous (IV) alpha-lipoic acid has been used for years to treat peripheral neuropathy in Germany.

A review in the Apr 2010 edition of  The Netherlands Journal of Medicine showed that ALA, when administered either intravenously or orally at a dosage of 600 mg daily, led to important diminution in pain among people suffering from diabetic neuropathy. A Romanian study of 26 participants found symptomatic healing with oral alpha lipoic acid (600mg daily) after 3 months. In a study, oral with 1,200 mg/day of Alpha-lipoic acid for 6 weeks improved a measure of capillary perfusion in the fingers of eight diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 181 patients with diabetic neuropathy found that oral with 600 mg/day, 1,200 mg/day, or 1,800 mg/day of alpha-lipoic acid for 5 weeks significantly improved neuropathic symptoms. In this study, the 600 mg/day dose was as effective as the higher doses. Taking alpha-lipoic acid may help other diabetes-related problem called autonomic neuropathy. One study found that seventy-three people with cardiac autonomic neuropathy, which affects the heart, demonstrated fewer signs of the condition when taking 800 mg of ALA orally compared to placebo.

ALA provided significant symptom improvement and delay in the progression of neurologic deficit in patients with diabetic neuropathy in the 4-year NATHAN study. Scientists have suggested that a decrease in the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy secondary to a reduction in oxidative stress may be a potential mechanism of action consistent with the antioxidant effect of ALA. In the Feb 2004 edition of Diabetic Medicine, scientists explain their meta-analysis of clinical findings on the intravenous therapy of diabetic neuropathy with thioctic acid. Their examination shows that a therapy regimen consisting of an intravenous dose of 600 mg of lipoic acid per day for 3 weeks significantly reduces the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. Dr. Dan Ziegler’s team at the German Diabetes Clinic has performed a number of trials in people with type 2 diabetes trying to determine optimal doses of alpha lipoic acid for diabetic neuropathy. The Alpha-Lipoic Acid in Diabetic Neuropathy Study found important effect in using intravenous alpha lipoic acid for a period of 3 weeks, with an therapeutic dose of 600 or 1200mg daily.

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