NEW ORLEANS -- This area has one of the highest rates of diabetes, and with that comes complications.
But now there could be a breakthrough treatment for one of those complications.
In 2011, a Metairie school teacher told us about her diabetes and neuropathy. That's the nerve damage that happens in about 70 percent of diabetics.
"I started feeling the tingling, the tingling that you get, and then you don't notice it at first because it's a slow onset. It's like, one day, it almost feels like pins and needles at some point. And then it gets to be where it's not as active. You don't feel that that tingle anymore," said Susan Doell in November 2011.
At the time, she was trying a prescription of vitamin B called Metanx. It's a medical food made at Pamlab, L.L.C. in Covington, Louisiana that is more like the natural form in foods that better absorb. Tulane Chief of Endocrinology Dr. Vivian Fonseca was testing Metanx along with other doctors around the U.S.
Now that study is over, and results look promising.
"We've done a full analysis of that study. It shows very clearly that people feel better on the medication. Their symptoms get better using a very standardized scoring system. It was better than the placebo," said Dr. Fonseca, who is the immediate past president of the American Diabetes Association.
There are many medications for the pain that is caused by neuropathy, but those don't change or reverse the nerve damage. Now Metanx is showing promise.
"Research in rats done in Pennington, also another Louisiana institution, demonstrated that you're growing new nerve fibers under the skin, which we think is really very interesting," he added about a study done at LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.
Metanx is a higher dose of three types of vitamin B found naturally in food. And it's not synthetic like many over-the-counter vitamins.
"Those who had the lowest levels of vitamins, in a very subtle way, those who had lower vitamin levels did better, which makes a lot of sense in two ways. Firstly, vitamin deficiency is much more common than we think, because people don't eat the really healthy foods that have all those things," said Dr. Fonseca.
Now he plans to dig deeper. Tulane is teaming up with Harvard and the Mayo Clinic to see if this is a breakthrough.
"We're going to do another study to see whether it really changes the natural history of the disease and maybe makes nerves regrow," he added.
The study has not started yet, but to get your name on a volunteer list for clinical trials, call Tulane at 504-988-0200.