Your Health: Treating diabetic neuropathy

37 million Americans have diabetes, a condition where your body doesn’t make insulin or doesn’t use it well.
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 12:32 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Over 100 years after the discovery of insulin, 37 million Americans have diabetes. It’s a condition where your body doesn’t make insulin, or doesn’t use it well.

Many people with diabetes also struggle with a serious condition called diabetic neuropathy, nerve damage that causes numbness and pain in the legs and feet.

Now, a new treatment uses stimulation to treat it.

Alice Ortiz calls herself a city girl-turned-country. But living on a 10-acre farm and keeping up with cows, goats, and chickens has been tough for the past six years. That’s because Alice has diabetic neuropathy.

“It started with like, tingling and a little bit of burning and numbness,” said Ortiz.

But the pain got worse, making it difficult to be on her feet.

“Diabetic neuropathy took over my life,” she said. “I mean, living with pain 24/7 is not, it’s not easy.”

Ortiz was treated with medication. She tried gabapentin, Cymbalta, and Lyrica, but nothing worked.

“Unfortunately, until recently, there really was no next step,” said Dr. William Raoofi, a Pain Management Specialist at Mercy Medical Center.

But a treatment that is newly approved for diabetic neuropathy is bringing relief.

“I describe it as, kind of, like, a cardiac pacemaker, but for the nervous system.”

It’s called the Nevro HFX, a spinal cord stimulator that transmits mild electrical pulses to the spinal cord.

“It’s done through a very small needle that’s put in someone’s back, similar to an epidural,” said Dr. Raoofi.

The device is connected to a pulse generator that sends the electric current to the spine.

“It was like a light switch,” said Ortiz. “The pain totally went away.”

Now, Ortiz can vacation and cruise with her family, and finally, can get into her dream ride.

“I own a Jeep,” she says. “I drive it all the time. And that was on my bucket list. There’s nothing out there that I cannot do.”

A trial of the device shows 80% of patients get pain relief from the stimulation.

Once the spinal cord stimulator is implanted in the lower back, patients recharge the battery wirelessly through the skin by wearing a belt with a charger that refreshes the stimulator battery.

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