To ascertain the prevalence and determinants of sensory neuropathy symptoms through structured interview of a representative sample of people with diabetes in the U.S. population.


The 1989 National Health Interview Survey consisted of a representative sample of 84,572 persons in the U.S. ≥ 18 yr of age. A household respondent identified all people in the household believed to have diabetes (n = 2829). Subjects who could not be personally interviewed (n = 129) and individuals who stated they did not have diabetes (n = 295) were excluded. A detailed questionnaire was administered to 99.3% of the remaining 2405 subjects. Questions on symptoms of sensory neuropathy included whether during the past 3 mo the subjects had experienced numbness or loss of feeling, pain or tingling, or decreased ability to feel hot or cold. The neuropathy questions were also administered to a representative sample of 20,037 subjects who were not known to have diabetes.


Prevalence of symptoms of sensory neuropathy was 30.2% among people with IDDM. This prevalence was 36.0% for men with NIDDM and 39.8% for women with NIDDM, compared with 9.8 and 11.8% for nondiabetic men and women, respectively. In logistic regression, factors independently related to symptoms of sensory neuropathy in people with NIDDM included duration of diabetes, hypertension, hyperglycemia, and glycosuria. Long duration of NIDDM (>20 yr) was associated with a twofold increased risk of symptoms of sensory neuropathy compared with those with 0-4 yr of diabetes. Hypertension was associated with a 60% higher likelihood of symptoms. Diabetic individuals whose blood glucose was high all or most of the time or whose urine tests showed glucose all of the time were > 2 times as likely to have symptoms of sensory neuropathy than those who did not report hyperglycemia or glycosuria. Age, sex, ethnicity, cigarette smoking, and height were not determinants of sensory neuropathy.


Symptoms of sensory neuropathy affect 30–40% of diabetic patients in the U.S. Men and women are affected equally. Prevalence of these symptoms increases with longer duration of diabetes; hypertension and hyperglycemia predispose to symptoms of sensory neuropathy.

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