Introduction: Neuropathy is a serious complication of diabetes. Its management focuses on glycaemic control, multifactorial cardiovascular risk intervention, pathogenesis-oriented therapy, and analgesics where needed.
Areas covered: The objective of this review is assessment of efficacy and safety of α lipoic acid (ALA, also thioctic acid) in pathogenesis-oriented treatment of diabetic neuropathy. The mechanisms of action of ALA in experimental diabetic neuropathy include reduction of oxidative stress along with improvement in nerve blood flow, nerve conduction velocity, and several other measures of nerve function. There is ample evidence from randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials and meta-analyses, suggesting that ALA is efficacious and safe for the diabetic neuropathy, accomplishing clinically meaningful improvements.
Expert opinion: ALA is a valuable therapeutic option for diabetic neuropathy. When compared with currently licensed analgesic drugs, it is better tolerated, has a more rapid onset of action, and improves paraesthesiae, numbness, sensory deficits, and muscle strength in addition to neuropathic pain. In clinical practice, ALA may be chosen in patients with early neuropathic deficits and symptoms, in whom clinical improvement is more likely. ALA should also be considered when comorbidities render other analgesics less appropriate or in the presence of cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy.
Keywords: diabetes mellitus; diabetic neuropathy; efficacy; oxidative stress; thioctic acid; treatment.