RALEIGH, N.C. — Diabetics are at risk for many problemsm from heart disease to stroke. Many also have blood circulation problems in the legs and feet, which could lead to amputation. But one treatment may restore blood flow and get rid of the pain.
Like many diabetics, Shannon Young began to experience lower leg and foot pain.
"[They] felt like they were on fire, but when you reached down to touch your feet, they would be freezing cold," she said.
Due to poor blood flow, the nerves in Young's lower extremites lacked oxygen and nutrients. It affected her strength.
"I didn't realize that my balance was off. I didn't even pay attention to it," Young said.
Wendy Volkert, a physical therapist at Rex Hospital, wanted to see if Young would respond to physical therapy, along with a special near-infrared light therapy called Anodyne. Pads with near-infrared light emitting diodes are lightly strapped to the ankles and feet.
"It causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide," Volkert said.
The treatment dialates arteries and capillaries, but not right away.
"I think it was about the second week I could start feeling. There was a little warm sensation," Young said.
"The patient senses warmth simply because it's improving local circulation in that area," Volkert said.
Twelve treatments over four weeks will determine if the therapy will work. Anodyne works for Young, so she'll get a home unit soon. Without treatments, the symptoms will come back.
"It's something they need to do for life," Volkert said.
Young said she was aware her diabetes could lead to foot problems, so she got checked.
"I caught mine at a very early stage and I suggest that all diabetics, if they start having problems with burning, any problem at all, be checked by a doctor," she said.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Anodyne therapy in 1994. It helps about about 80 percent of patients.