Diabetic painful and insensate neuropathy: pathogenesis and potential treatments

Neurotherapeutics. 2009 Oct;6(4):638-47. doi: 10.1016/j.nurt.2009.07.004.


Advanced peripheral diabetic neuropathy (PDN) is associated with elevated vibration and thermal perception thresholds that progress to sensory loss and degeneration of all fiber types in peripheral nerve. A considerable proportion of diabetic patients also describe abnormal sensations such as paresthesias, allodynia, hyperalgesia, and spontaneous pain. One or several manifestations of abnormal sensation and pain are described in all the diabetic rat and mouse models studied so far (i.e., streptozotocin-diabetic rats and mice, type 1 insulinopenic BB/Wor and type 2 hyperinsulinemic diabetic BBZDR/Wor rats, Zucker diabetic fatty rats, and nonobese diabetic, Akita, leptin- and leptin-receptor-deficient, and high-fat diet-fed mice). Such manifestations are 1) thermal hyperalgesia, an equivalent of a clinical phenomenon described in early PDN; 2) thermal hypoalgesia, typically present in advanced PDN; 3) mechanical hyperalgesia, an equivalent of pain on pressure in early PDN; 4) mechanical hypoalgesia, an equivalent to the loss of sensitivity to mechanical noxious stimuli in advanced PDN; 5) tactile allodynia, a painful perception of a light touch; and 5) formalin-induced hyperalgesia. Rats with short-term diabetes develop painful neuropathy, whereas those with longer-term diabetes and diabetic mice typically display manifestations of both painful and insensate neuropathy, or insensate neuropathy only. Animal studies using pharmacological and genetic approaches revealed important roles of increased aldose reductase, protein kinase C, and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase activities, advanced glycation end-products and their receptors, oxidative-nitrosative stress, growth factor imbalances, and C-peptide deficiency in both painful and insensate neuropathy. This review describes recent achievements in studying the pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathic pain and sensory disorders in diabetic animal models and developing potential pathogenetic treatments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / drug therapy*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Discovery / methods
  • Humans
  • Neuralgia / drug therapy*
  • Neuralgia / epidemiology
  • Neuralgia / physiopathology*
  • Sensation Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Sensation Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sensation Disorders / physiopathology*