Erectile Dysfunction Drug Could Help Diabetes
A research team has found that an erectile dysfunction drug could help treat a common complication of diabetes called peripheral neuropathy. Thus far, the studies have been conducted in animals only, but the investigators suggest their findings could lead to a new way to treat diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy among individuals with either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes is the most common complication of this disease. Classic symptoms include pain, burning, tingling, and numbness in the feet and lower legs, often resulting in significant discomfort and disability. Foot health is especially important for individuals with diabetic neuropathy because lack of sensation can lead to serious injury to the feet and even amputation.
The erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil (Viagra) works to treat impotence by preventing a chemical called phosphodiesterase type 5 from performing certain actions. As a result, blood vessels are able to widen, which in turn improves blood flow to the penis following sexual stimulation.
Now, researchers at Henry Ford Hospital Systems have discovered that this erectile dysfunction drug has a positive impact on peripheral nerve damage in older male animals with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. The investigators chose older animals (36 weeks old) to test the drug because in humans, typically it is middle-age adults who are affected by this complication of diabetes.
Here’s how the experiment was done:
- Two groups of mice were studied: 15 were treated with sildenafil once daily for eight weeks and 15 were given a saline solution daily
- Nerve and function tests conducted on mice in both groups revealed that the animals who receive sildenafil had “markedly improved sensory function” beginning at six weeks after starting treatment when compared with the control mice
- Thus the authors concluded that “we provide evidence that the sildenafil treatment improves neurological outcome even in middle age diabetic mice with long term peripheral neuropathy”
These findings are preliminary and experimental and do not suggest that anyone should take Viagra for diabetic neuropathy. However, the study results do provide scientists with new information into the workings of diabetic peripheral neuropathy and may lead to a novel way to use sildenafil for this common diabetic complication.
One of the best ways to prevent diabetic peripheral neuropathy from developing is to maintain a healthy glucose level. That typically involves following a diabetic healthy diet, checking glucose levels regularly, exercising daily, managing stress, and staying at a healthful weight.
Also read about gene therapy for diabetic neuropathy
Henry Ford Hospital System
Wang L et al. Sildenafil ameliorates long term peripheral neuropathy in type II diabetic mice. PLoS One 2015; 10(2): e0118134