'Numbness of the feet' is a poor indicator for polyneuropathy in Type 2 diabetic patients

Diabet Med. 2000 Feb;17(2):105-10. doi: 10.1046/j.1464-5491.2000.00223.x.


Aims: To identify neuropathic sensory symptoms associated with a clinical neurological examination (CNE) and to investigate whether these symptoms could be used as a diagnostic or screening tool for diabetic polyneuropathy in general practice.

Methods: Five hundred and eighty-eight patients with Type 2 diabetes, recruited from 26 general practices in the Netherlands, underwent a CNE and completed a diabetes symptom checklist that included 10 items on neuropathic sensory symptoms. Linear regression analyses were performed to assess the association between neuropathic symptoms and CNE. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were created to assess the diagnostic properties of neuropathic symptoms.

Results: In this population, with a mean age of 66.8 years, 32% were identified with diabetic polyneuropathy according to the CNE. Variables that showed the strongest association with CNE score were age (beta = 0.41), symptoms of sensory alteration (beta = 0.27), and the item 'numbness of the feet' (beta = 0.35) in particular. ROC curves showed that prediction of diabetic polyneuropathy from these symptoms was unsatisfying. The sensitivity and specificity of daily symptoms of 'numbness of the feet' were 28% and 93%, respectively, in patients <68 years, and 22% and 92%, respectively, in patients > or =68 years.

Conclusions: Identification of neuropathic sensory symptoms is not useful as a diagnostic or even a screening tool in the assessment of diabetic neuropathy in daily practice. Therefore, the results reported in this paper mandate an annual foot examination by the general practitioner.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetic Foot
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / diagnosis*
  • Foot Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Hypesthesia*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity