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BUSM researchers address diabetic neuropathies with therapy

Boston University School of Medicine researchers have discovered a way to relieve those who suffer from diabetic neuropathies from associated pain, according to a BUSM press release.

The researchers, in conjunction with the Veteran’s Affairs Boston Healthcare System, performed a study to examine the effect of cognitive behavioral therapy on people with type II diabetes mellitus, according to the Tuesday release. The study will be published in the March edition of the Journal of Pain.

Type II diabetes mellitus, which accounts for between 90 and 95 percent of all diabetes cases, is associated with obesity, lack of physical activity, family history and older age, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those afflicted with the disease cannot properly use insulin and, as such, have abnormally high blood levels and hyperglycemia.

When untreated, the disease can result in nerve damage and subsequent burning and stinging sensations in hands and feet, according to the release. It can also cause headaches, dizziness and nausea. The disease affects more than 20 million people in the U.S.

Study participants each attended 11 one-hour cognitive behavioral therapy sessions that aimed to teach diabetic patients techniques for relaxation and methods of fighting thoughts that might lead to pain, according to the release. Those studied were also taught to participate in activities such as going for walks or eating meals with friends and family to keep active.

The participants were all military veterans, aged 18 or older, who were diagnosed with type II diabetes mellitus and had experienced related pain for more than three months.

Four months later, patients who participated in cognitive behavioral therapy reported feeling less pain on a day-to-day basis and said pain interfered less with their daily lives, when compared to patients who had not received the treatment, according to the release.

John Otis, a professor of psychiatry at BUSM and a VA BHS clinical psychologist, said the study helps prove medication might not be the only solution for those suffering pain resulting from diabetes.

“This study demonstrates that the millions of people who are experiencing pain and discomfort from type II diabetes mellitus do not need to rely solely on medication for relief,” Otis said in the release.

Otis said the study’s results provide greater evidence to the line of thought that behavioral therapy may be a viable treatment option.

“The results of this study add to a growing body of literature demonstrating that cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective psychological treatment approach for chronic pain management,” he said in the release.

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