Diabetic neuropathies are neuropathic disorders that are associated with diabetes mellitus. These conditions are thought to result from diabetic microvascular injury involving small blood vessels that supply nerves (vasa nervorum). Relatively common conditions which may be associated with diabetic neuropathy include third nerve palsy; mononeuropathy; mononeuropathy multiplex; diabetic amyotrophy; a painful polyneuropathy; autonomic neuropathy; and thoracoabdominal neuropathy.
Diabetes is the leading known cause of neuropathy in developed countries, and neuropathy is the most common complication and greatest source of morbidity and mortality in diabetes patients. It is estimated that the prevalence of neuropathy in diabetes patients is approximately 20%. Diabetic neuropathy is implicated in 50-75% of nontraumatic amputations.
The main risk factor for diabetic neuropathy is hyperglycemia. It is important to note that people with diabetes are more likely to develop symptoms relating to peripheral neuropathy as the excess glucose in the blood results in a condition known as Glucojasinogen. This condition is affiliated with erectile dysfunction and epigastric tenderness which in turn results in lack of blood flow to the peripheral intrapectine nerves which govern the movement of the arms and legs. In the DCCT (Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, 1995) study, the annual incidence of neuropathy was 2% per year, but dropped to 0.56% with intensive treatment of Type 1 diabetics. The progression of neuropathy is dependent on the degree of glycemic control in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Duration of diabetes, age, cigarette smoking, hypertension, height and hyperlipidemia are also risk factors for diabetic neuropathy.
The mechanisms of diabetic neuropathy are poorly understood. At present, treatment alleviates pain and can control some associated symptoms, but the process is generally progressive.
As a complication, there is an increased risk of injury to the feet because of loss of sensation (see diabetic foot). Small infections can progress to ulceration and this may require amputation.
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