Prediabetes may not explain diabetic polyneuropathies

A Mayo Clinic study found the frequency of diabetic polyneuropathy is similar in patients with prediabetes and healthy people.

Diabetic polyneuropathies (DPN) are commonly associated with diabetes and chemical derangements related to high blood sugar. The neuropathies primarily injure nerve fibers in the feet and legs; the resulting nerve damage can create sensory, motor and bodily function problems. DPN can be painful and life-threatening.

“It is highly unlikely that impaired glucose or associated metabolic derangements cause polyneuropathy, at least not to the high frequency previously reported,” lead author Peter J. Dyck, MD, a Mayo Clinic neurologist, stated in a press release.

The 5-year study looked at nearly 550 people in Olmsted County, Minn. Of these, 150 individuals were non-diabetic, 174 had prediabetes indicators, and 208 had newly developed type 2 diabetes.

The study concluded that typical or atypical (a painful small-fiber variety) DPN was not more prevalent in patients with prediabetes than in healthy people.

Although prediabetes is considered a precursor of type 2 diabetes, the researchers found no evidence that it directly leads to greater prevalence of typical or atypical DPN. Because of the potential for overtreatment, the researchers suggested physicians should not treat prediabetes as diabetes if their intention is to prevent the development of diabetic polyneuropathy. They also suggested that physicians should seek explanations other than prediabetes for patients who have painful small fiber polyneuropathy.

The study was published in the February issue of Diabetes Care.

For more information:

  • P Dyck. Diabetes Care. 2012. Doi: 10.2337/dc11-1421.

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