Coenzyme Q10 May Ease Diabetes-Related Nerve Damage

By Jane Hart, MD

People with diabetes commonly experience an ailment known as neuropathy—a condition characterized by nerve damage, especially in the legs, feet, and hands. A study in the Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications suggests that for people with diabetes and neuropathy, the antioxidant coenzyme Q10 may improve nerve function and ease uncomfortable symptoms by 50%.

Relief linked to coenzyme Q10

In this study, 49 people with type 2 diabetes and neuropathy were randomly assigned to receive 400 mg of coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone) or placebo daily for 12 weeks. Symptoms such as pain, lack of sensation, and numbness were monitored, and studies were used to test nerve function. A marker of oxidative stress, the blood test for lipid peroxidation, was also measured.

Results showed that people in the coenzyme Q10 group reported that symptoms improved by 50%, and nerve function studies showed significant improvement compared with the placebo group. Lipid peroxidation was also significantly reduced in the coenzyme Q10 group compared with the placebo group.

While persistent high blood sugar (glucose) is the major general cause of neuropathy in people with diabetes, the study authors looked specifically at the role of oxidative stress (which can cause cell damage) and the use of an antioxidant, coenzyme Q10, in providing relief.

The authors caution that research is needed to determine what dose and duration of treatment may best lead to improvements in nerve health.

More on neuropathy

What is neuropathy? Neuropathy is a common condition for people with diabetes, caused by nerve damage, that may lead to pain, numbness, burning, cramping, and loss of sensation in the area of the nerve damage such as the hands or feet. In people with diabetes, neuropathy is caused mainly by persistent and prolonged elevation of blood sugar.

Why is it a problem? We don’t often think about our nerves but we have hundreds of them in our body—and they are vital for our ability to think, feel, move, and live! People with neuropathy are at increased risk for a variety of conditions including wound infections. For instance, a person with foot neuropathy may not feel the initial warning signs of a cut in their foot due to a lack of sensation. This can lead to a worsening of the wound and, ultimately, infection, and even amputation. Treatment includes lowering blood sugar, reducing pain and other symptoms, and great attention to skin and foot care. Unfortunately, people with neuropathy often don’t experience complete relief from conventional therapies so natural options are needed.

Talk with a doctor. If you have diabetes, talk with a doctor about your risk for neuropathy. A major step toward preventing complications is keeping blood sugar under control. If you already experience neuropathy, talk with a doctor about your symptoms and treatment options.

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.