Objective: to determine whether restoration of sensation, impaired due to diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), would reduce the number of falls and the fear of falling and improve activities of daily living (ADL) in a Medicare-aged population.
Design: retrospective cohort study of patients with documented, monochromatic near-infrared phototherapy (MIRE)-mediated, symptomatic reversal of DPN.
Setting: responses to a health status questionnaire following symptomatic reversal of DPN.
Patients: 252 patients (mean age 76 years) provided health information following symptomatic reversal of diabetic neuropathy (mean duration 8.6 months).
Main results: incidence of falls and fear of falling decreased within 1 month after reversal of peripheral neuropathy and remained low after 1 year. Likewise, improved ADL were evident soon after reversal of peripheral neuropathy and showed further improvement after 1 year. Overall, reversal of peripheral neuropathy in a clinician's office and subsequent use of MIRE at home was associated with a 78% reduction in falls, a 79% decrease in balance-related fear of falling and a 72% increase in ADL (P < 0.0002 for all results).
Conclusions: reversal of peripheral neuropathy is associated with an immediate reduction in the absolute number of falls, a reduced fear of falling and improved ADL. These results suggest that symptomatic reversal of diabetic neuropathy will have a substantial favourable, long-term socioeconomic impact on patients with DPN and the Medicare system, and improve the quality of life for elderly patients with diabetes and peripheral neuropathy.