Prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms associated with diabetes mellitus: a population-based survey of 15,000 adults

Arch Intern Med. 2001 Sep 10;161(16):1989-96. doi: 10.1001/archinte.161.16.1989.


Background: Gastrointestinal symptoms are reportedly common in diabetes, but a causal link is controversial and adequate population control data are lacking.

Objective: To determine whether gastrointestinal symptoms are more frequent in persons with diabetes, particularly in those with poor glycemic control.

Methods: Fifteen thousand adults were mailed a questionnaire (response rate, 60.0%) containing validated questions on the frequency of troublesome gastrointestinal symptoms within the past 3 months, diabetic status, and self-reported glycemic control. The prevalence of 16 symptoms and 5 symptom complexes, reported to occur often or very often, was compared using logistic regression analysis, adjusting for age and sex.

Results: Overall, 8657 eligible subjects responded; 423 (4.9%) reported having diabetes. Most (94.8%) had type 2 diabetes mellitus. Adjusting for age and sex, all 16 symptoms and the 5 symptom complexes were significantly more frequent in subjects with diabetes compared with controls. An increased prevalence rate of symptoms was significantly associated with poorer levels of glycemic control but not with duration of diabetes or type of diabetic treatment.

Conclusions: Diabetes mellitus is associated with an increased prevalence of upper and lower gastrointestinal symptoms. This effect may be linked to poor glycemic control but not to duration of diabetes or type of treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Constipation / etiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Diabetes Complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Digestive System Diseases / blood
  • Digestive System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Digestive System Diseases / etiology*
  • Fecal Incontinence / etiology
  • Female
  • Flatulence / etiology
  • Heartburn / etiology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Time Factors
  • Vomiting / etiology


  • Blood Glucose