Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation


Nerve Damage In Diabetes
First Published: Investigator - July 2006

Understanding diabetic associated nerve damage in the anorectal region is a key focus for Dr Penny Lynn, Senior Research Officer within the Department of Human Physiology at Flinders.

Diabetes forms when blood sugar levels are not controlled either through a decreased production of insulin within the body or the body’s inability to respond to the insulin that is produced. Keeping the blood sugar levels within a normal limit is the best way to reduce or prevent the complications associated with diabetes such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic renal failure, retinal and nervous system damage.

For many with diabetes, the nerve damage can lead to embarrassing complications such as faecal incontinence. This is due to the nerves in the anorectal area being no longer able to properly control the defecation process.

Up to 20% of diabetics experience some sort of defecation related complication such as faecal incontinence over the course of their disease. Understanding which nerves are damaged and in what order they are damaged will lead to a better awareness of the mechanisms causing this symptom and could lead to a better way of controlling or preventing this distressing problem.

“This symptom, while not the most serious, is indicative of an awful lot of nerve damage,” says Dr Lynn. “Many people don’t report this problem as they are too embarrassed, however it is quite common and with more awareness in the processes that lead to this issue we may be able to create a solution.”

Currently little is known about the groups of nerves within this area. A large portion of Dr Lynn’s project will be to identify which types of nerves sense activity in the anorectal area. Once these have been identified it will be easier to trace how diabetes causes this damage.

If the groups of nerves which are predisposed to this type of damage are successfully identified the Flinders team will be one step closer to creating a drug which can protect them.

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