Exercise increases cutaneous nerve density in diabetic patients without neuropathy

Ann Clin Transl Neurol. 2014 Oct;1(10):844-9. doi: 10.1002/acn3.125. Epub 2014 Oct 12.


Early diabetic neuropathy is characterized by loss of unmyelinated axons, resulting in pain, numbness, and progressive decline in intraepidermal nerve fiber density. Patients with type 2 diabetes, without neuropathy, were assigned to quarterly lifestyle counseling (N = 40) or structured, supervised weekly exercise (N = 60) for 1 year. Distal leg IENFD significantly increased in the exercise cohort and remained unchanged in the counseling cohort (1.5 ± 3.6 vs. -0.1 ± 3.2 fibers/mm, P = 0.03). These results suggest preclinical injury to unmyelinated axons is potentially reversible, and that IENFD may be a responsive biomarker useful in future neuropathy prevention clinical trials.