Neuropathy in prediabetes: does the clock start ticking early?

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2011 Jul 12;7(11):682-90. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2011.113.


Between 25% and 62% of patients with idiopathic peripheral neuropathy are reported to have prediabetes, and among individuals with prediabetes 11-25% are thought to have peripheral neuropathy, and 13-21% have neuropathic pain. Population-based studies suggest a gradient for the prevalence of neuropathy, being highest in patients with manifest diabetes mellitus, followed by individuals with impaired glucose tolerance then impaired fasting glucose and least in those with normoglycemia. The most sensitive test to assess glucose metabolism status is the oral glucose tolerance test. Pathogenesis involves hyperglycemia, microvascular abnormalities, dyslipidemia and the metabolic syndrome. Individuals with prediabetes have less severe neuropathy than those with manifest diabetes mellitus. Sensory modalities are more frequently affected than motor modalities, but impairment of small nerve fibers could be the earliest detectable sign. Diagnosis should rely on careful clinical examination, with emphasis on the evaluation of small fibers. An oral glucose tolerance test should be performed in patients with idiopathic neuropathy. The only treatment with any efficacy is lifestyle modification to improve control of hyperglycemia and cardiovascular risk factors, but long-term efficacy of this approach has not been established. This Review summarizes the current evidence on the association between prediabetes and neuropathy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neuralgia / blood
  • Neuralgia / diagnosis
  • Neuralgia / epidemiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / blood*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Polyneuropathies / blood
  • Polyneuropathies / diagnosis
  • Polyneuropathies / epidemiology
  • Prediabetic State / blood*
  • Prediabetic State / diagnosis*
  • Prediabetic State / epidemiology
  • Time Factors


  • Blood Glucose