To identify risk factors for diabetic lower-extremity peripheral sensory neuropathy prospectively in a cohort of U.S. veterans with diabetes.


General medicine clinic outpatients with diabetes were followed prospectively for the development of insensitivity to the 5.07 monofilament on the foot.


Of 775 subjects, 388 (50%) had neuropathy at baseline. Of the 387 subjects without neuropathy at baseline, 288 were followed up, and of these, 58 (20%) developed neuropathy. Multivariate logistic regression modeling of prevalent neuropathy controlling for sex and race revealed independent and significant associations with age, duration of diabetes, glycohemoglobin level, height, history of lower-extremity ulceration, callus, and edema; an independent and inverse correlation was noted with ankle-arm index. Risk factors for incident neuropathy in multivariate logistic regression included age, baseline glycohemoglobin level, height, history of ulcer, and CAGE screening instrument alcohol score; current smoking and albumin level were inversely associated with risk.


Poorer glycemic control increases the risk of neuropathy and is amenable to intervention. Height and age directly increase risk of neuropathy and may help identify patients at risk. A proportion of neuropathy in diabetic veterans is probably due to or worsened by alcohol ingestion. Neuropathy was less common in current smokers than subjects not currently smoking.

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