FPN E-News
 March 2015

 Signs of Stress

Certain amounts of anxiety are all part of life for people of all age groups, but stress can become overwhelming for seniors. The thought of living alone and the loss of a spouse or of friends are factors that could contribute to senior stress. In older adults who have physical or medical limitations, simple tasks could also add up to their burden. Stress could even worsen health conditions thus causing another worry.

Family caregivers need to know the elderly can experience burdens without them knowing it. Learning the signs of stress can help you and your aging loved one(s) learn to recognize the different factors that contribute to stress and take the necessary steps to reduce its effects.

Here are some ways to identify if a senior's anxieties are a cause for concern:

1. Sudden changes in eating habits

2. Mood swings in the form of increased irritability, depression, or extreme sadness

3. Memory issues like an increased forgetfulness of places, names, or other things that normally come naturally

4. Losing focus and exercising poor judgment like overspending on a tight budget

5. Body aches, increased episodes of diseases, changes in sleeping pattern including difficulty falling asleep or nighttime sleep disruption

6. Social detachment exhibited by either a refusal to socialize with others or to participate in activities that they used to love doing

Though you may not be able to get rid of the stress, there are ways to alleviate it. Yoga, brisk walking, tai chi, and other exercises can help ease tensions. One of the best ways to decrease anxiety is to shift your attention to a different task and tune out distractions. Many types of games and hobbies can be effective de-stressors because they help you redirect your focus, while also stimulating your mind. Try the word search to the right of this article for stress relief through positive distraction. 

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Reserach Update
Neuropathy: Relief for Diabetics
with Painful Conditions

In 2013, we published a research study involving Phase II Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HCF) in Patients with Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy involving several study groups.  The article below is an follow-up to this study which was recently published in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology and Science Daily.


Neuropathy: Relief for diabetics with painful condition


Walking barefoot on sand "felt like walking on glass" for Keith Wenckowski, who has lived with type-one diabetes for more than two decades.


One of the participants in the study at Northwestern site, who suffered from painful diabetic neuropathy (DPN), Wenckowski finally found relief from the constant foot pain that required him to wear shoes at all time, even to the beach.


The study found that those with painful diabetic neuropathy who received two low dose rounds of a non-viral gene therapy called VM202 had significant improvement of their pain that lasted for months.


"I can now go to a beach and walk on the sand without feeling like I am walking on glass, "Wenckowski said.


"Those who received the therapy reported more than 50 percent reduction in their symptoms and virtually no side effects," said Dr. Jack Kessler, lead author of the study.  "Not only did it improve their pain, it also improved their ability to perceive a very, very light touch.


VM202 contains human hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) gene. Growth factor is a naturally occurring protein in the body that acts on cells, in this case nerve cells - to keep them alive, healthy and functioning.  Future study is needed to investigate if the therapy can actually regenerate damaged nerves, reversing the neuropathy.


Wenckowski had continuous numbness, but now, more than a year since he received the therapy, his symptoms have not returned. 


Patients with painful diabetic neuropathy have abnormally high levels of glucose in their blood.  These high levels of glucose can be toxic.


"We are hoping that the treatment will increase the local production of hepatocyte growth factor to help regenerate nerves and grow new blood vessels and therefore reduce the pain," said Dr. Senda Ajroud-Driss, associate professor in neurology at Feinberg, an attending physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and an author of the study.


"Right now there is no medication that can reverse neuropathy," Kessler said.  "Our goal is to develop a treatment. If we can show with more patients that is a very real phenomenon, then we can show we have not only improved the symptoms of the disease, namely the pain, but we have actually improved function."


A future, much larger phase three study will soon be underway.


To read the full article click here.

Source: Northwestern University. "Neuropathy: Relief for diabetics with painful condition." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2015.

Source: Picture: Sandy Feet by Tina Phillips

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this newsletter is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider. You are strongly encouraged to consult a neurologist with any questions or comments you may have regarding your condition. The best care can only be given by a qualified provider who knows you personally.