Epidemiological data on chronic polyneuropathies, especially inflammatory types, is limited. The purpose of this study was to examine the spectrum of causes and estimated prevalence of various polyneuropathy types in Vest-Agder, and to examine the clinical features of the Vest-Agder population of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP). In Vest-Agder county (population of 155 464), polyneuropathy patients are registered in a database and followed prospectively. We did a measure of the database on October 31 1999. A total of 192 patients were registered. The prevalence for chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) was 7.7 per 100 000 population. The course was relapsing in five of fifteen patients, progressive in four patients and slowly progressive in six of fifteen patients. Two of the fifteen patients had pure sensory symptoms. The mean Rankin disability score was 3.4 at maximal deficit and 2.1 at last follow-up. The prevalence of paraproteinemic polyneuropathy was 5.1 per 100 000 population. None of the patients with paraproteinemic polyneuropathy were worse than slightly disabled (disability score < or = 2). The prevalences for other polyneuropathies were as follows: polyneuropathy and RA, 1.3; polyneuropathy and Sjögren's syndrome or sicca complex, 4.5 (polyneuropathy was the presenting symptom in five of seven patients); sarcoidosis 1.9; polyneuropathy and chronic Lyme, 0.6; paraneoplastic polyneuropathy, 1.9; diabetic polyneuropathy 23.2; vitamin deficiency, 5.1; alcoholic and toxic polyneuropathy, 19.9; hereditary polyneuropathy, 14.8. Cryptogenic polyneuropathies made up 26% of all polyneuropathies. The mean disability score was 2.0 (SD 1.1). In conclusion, prevalence of CIDP was significantly higher than previously reported, and the prognosis was good in the majority of patients. Patients with paraproteinemic polyneuropathy were not severely disabled. Polyneuropathy was the presenting symptom in the majority of patients with Sjögren's syndrome or sicca complex.