Gastrointestinal symptoms in Chinese patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Diabet Med. 1999 Aug;16(8):670-4. doi: 10.1046/j.1464-5491.1999.00135.x.


Aims: To examine and compare gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in Hong Kong Chinese Type 2 diabetic outpatients and non-diabetic control subjects.

Methods: A total of 149 Chinese Type 2 diabetic patients (66 men and 83 women, age (mean +/- SD) 46.8+/-11.1 years) newly referred to the diabetes clinic of the Prince of Wales Hospital, Hong Kong were examined. Sixty-five age and sex-matched non-diabetic subjects were recruited from the community as controls (22 men and 43 women, age (mean +/- SD) 46.5+/-6.6 years, P = 0.820). All patients were interviewed regarding GI symptoms over the past year, using a questionnaire that covered 14 items. A scoring system from 0 to 4 was used to grade severity.

Results: Diabetic patients had higher blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose and glycated haemoglobin and were more often smokers than control subjects. Of the 149 diabetic subjects, 105 (70.5+/-45.8%) had GI symptoms while only 20 (30.8%) of the 65 control subjects had GI symptoms (P<0.001). The respective percentages of upper and lower GI symptoms in diabetic and normal subjects were 44.3% vs. 24.6% (P = 0.006) and 54.4% vs. 13.9% (P<0.001). The three commonest GI symptoms in diabetic patients were diarrhoea (34.9%), constipation (27.5%) and epigastric fullness (16.8%). After adjustment for age, sex, duration of diagnosed diabetes and smoking, patients with or without metformin had similar percentages or scores for GI symptoms. On multivariate analysis using age, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose, glycated haemoglobin, duration of diagnosed diabetes and presence of peripheral neuropathy as independent variables, duration of diabetes was the only independent parameter associated with total score for GI symptoms (beta = 0.116, P = 0.003), for upper GI symptoms (beta = 0.073, P = 0.005) and for lower GI symptom (beta = 0.043, P = 0.020).

Conclusions: Up to 70% of the Chinese Type 2 diabetic outpatients have GI symptoms, which is a much higher rate than in non-diabetic control subjects. Duration of diabetes is the most important factor associated with the presence of such GI symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Pressure
  • China / ethnology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / classification
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatients
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Blood Glucose