Gastrointestinal symptoms and glycemic control in diabetes mellitus: a longitudinal population study

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Sep;20(9):888-97. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0b013e3282f5f734.


Background: The prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms is increased in diabetes, but their natural history is understood poorly and any impact of glycemic control is controversial. We aimed to quantify changes in GI symptom status and glycemic control among a population sample of patients with diabetes.

Methods: Data on 10 chronic GI symptom complexes were obtained from a validated questionnaire at baseline and after 12 months. Changes in acute and chronic glycemic control were classified as always adequate, variable (deteriorated or improved), or always inadequate; acute glycemic control was assessed by fasting plasma glucose and chronic glycemic control by a validated self-report 5-point graded scale.

Results: Baseline and follow-up data were available in 136 individuals with diabetes (mean age 59 years; 66% males; 95% type 2). The most prevalent GI symptom complexes were abdominal bloating/distension (35%), ulcer-like dyspepsia (35%), and irritable bowel syndrome (27%). Overall, between 7 and 24% reported a change in GI symptoms with the largest change in irritable bowel syndrome (24%), bloating/distension (22%), and ulcer-like dyspepsia (21%). Those who had a change in abdominal bloating (either loss or gain) over 12 months were more likely to have increased their mean fasting plasma glucose (P<0.05). Contrary to expectations, consistently poor self-reported glycemic control was only weakly associated with less persistent abdominal pain (r=-0.2, P=0.03), diarrhea (r=-0.22, P=0.01), and abdominal bloating (r=-0.2, P=0.03). Acute glycemic control was not significantly related to any GI symptoms.

Conclusion: We were unable to demonstrate any association between worsening GI symptoms and glycemic control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Complications / blood*
  • Diabetes Complications / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / blood*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / blood
  • Hyperglycemia / complications
  • Hyperglycemia / epidemiology
  • Hyperglycemia / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Quality of Life


  • Blood Glucose