Objective: To assess whether arterial hypertension (AH) is an independent risk factor for chronic symmetric polyneuropathy (CSP) in the elderly.
Background: A strong relationship has been detected between AH and distal symmetric polyneuropathy in insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent diabetes. However, the correlation between AH and polyneuropathy caused by other clinical conditions has not yet been studied.
Methods: Four thousand one hundred and ninety-one subjects aged > or = 55 years seen in office consultations by 25 general practitioners (GPs) from two separate areas in Italy were interviewed, using a pretested semistructured questionnaire covering conditions commonly associated with neuropathy and symptoms of peripheral nerve disease. A neurologist later visited individuals with > or = 2 symptoms of polyneuropathy and a diagnosis of CSP was made in the presence of bilateral, fairly symmetric impairment of at least two among strength, sensation and tendon reflexes. AH was ascertained when known to the GP and/or if the patient was being treated with antihypertensive drugs.
Results: One hundred and fifty one subjects had CSP (3.6%). Diabetes was the commonest associated condition (18%). AH was present in 47 patients with CSP (31%). The odds ratio (OR) of AH in patients with CSP was 4.5 [95% confidence interval (CI) 3.1-6.6]. The OR of AH was 3.2 (95% CI 1.5-6.9) in patients with diabetes, and 5.7 (95% CI 3.6-9.3) in those without diabetes. The OR of AH was 4.8 (95% CI 4.4-5.2) after adjusting for the commonest risk factors for CSP.
Conclusion: AH may be an independent risk factor for CSP in the elderly.