Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes that may be associated both with considerable morbidity (painful polyneuropathy, neuropathic ulceration) and mortality (autonomic neuropathy). The epidemiology and natural history of diabetic neuropathy is clouded with uncertainty, largely caused by confusion in the definition and measurement of this disorder. We have reviewed various clinical manifestations associated with somatic and autonomic neuropathy, and we herein discuss current views related to the management of the various abnormalities. Although unproven, the best evidence suggests that near-normal control of blood glucose in the early years after diabetes onset may help delay the development of clinically significant nerve impairment. Intensive therapy to achieve normalization of blood glucose also may lead to reversibility of early diabetic neuropathy, but again, this is unproven. Our ability to manage successfully the many different manifestations of diabetic neuropathy depends ultimately on our success in uncovering the pathogenic processes underlying this disorder. The recent resurgence of interest in the vascular hypothesis, for example, has opened up new avenues of investigation for therapeutic intervention. Paralleling our increased understanding of the pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathy, refinements must be made in our ability to measure quantitatively the different types of defects that occur in this disorder. These tests must be validated and standardized to allow comparability between studies and more meaningful interpretation of study results.

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