Small fibre neuropathies

Curr Opin Neurol. 2005 Oct;18(5):591-7. doi: 10.1097/01.wco.0000177330.35147.70.


Purpose of review: To summarize the recent advances in aetiology, diagnostic assessment, and treatment of small fibre neuropathies.

Recent findings: New causes of small fibre neuropathy have been recognized and advances in neurophysiologic and neuropathologic techniques for investigating small fibres have been made, increasing the interest in this field. In particular, skin biopsy proved to be a sensitive method to diagnose small fibre neuropathy. It allows the detection of subclinical abnormalities of peripheral nerve function in patients with diabetes and tongue denervation in patients with burning mouth syndrome. This technique has also been used to demonstrate the neuroprotective effect of erythropoietin in experimental models of neuropathy. Among nonconventional neurophysiologic techniques for investigating small fibres, laser-evoked potential and contact heat-evoked potential stimulators have been developed and deserve particular interest. Several trials on neuropathic pain that is a typical feature of small fibre neuropathies have been performed and guidelines have recently been published.

Summary: Detection of small fibre impairment allows earlier diagnosis of neuropathy and could be used as an outcome measure in future regenerative neuropathy trials. Standardization of skin biopsy can have an important impact on clinical practice and research. Further studies are needed to assess the reliability of current neurophysiologic techniques for testing small fibre function in peripheral neuropathies and the correlation with well established neuropathologic examination.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers / pathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / therapy