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Can chilli treat chronic foot pain?

Project summary

Chronic pain in the feet, caused by nerve damage, is a debilitating complication of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Professor Anand will test if a new treatment (called the capsaicin 8 percent patch) can reduce pain and potentially reverse nerve damage. If successful, this treatment could help to reduce the effects of chronic pain and improve quality of life in people with diabetes.

Background to research

Neuropathy is a long-term complication of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, which results in damage to the nerves. This can cause chronic pain in the feet (affecting around 20 percent of people with diabetes), which can be a disabling condition.

Treatments that are currently available to help reduce this pain aren't very effective and have numerous side-effects. There are also no treatments that can reverse or halt the nerve damage.

Research aims

Professor Anand’s research aims to test a new skin plaster, called the capsaicin 8 percent patch, in people with diabetes who have chronic foot pain. Capsaicin is the hot ingredient in chilli peppers that works by "pruning" the painful nerve endings in the skin. It’s not absorbed into the bloodstream and so has no side effects.

The team will compare those who use the capsaicin 8 percent patch to people who receive the current best available treatment. Professor Anand and his team will assess the effectiveness of the patch to relieve pain, and look at whether it can improve nerve damage by restoring nerve fibres.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

If this research shows that the capsaicin 8 percent patch can successfully treat chronic foot pain in people with diabetes, it could be offered as a new treatment with the potential to reduce their pain and significantly improve their quality of life.

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