Pathways in the diagnosis and management of diabetic polyneuropathy

Curr Diab Rep. 2015 Jun;15(6):609. doi: 10.1007/s11892-015-0609-2.


Distal symmetric polyneuropathy (DSPN), the most common form of diabetic neuropathy, has a complex pathophysiology and can be a major source of physical and psychologic disability. The management of DSPN can be frustrating for both patient and physician. This article provides a general overview of typical patient pathways in DSPN, and highlights variations in diagnosis, management, and referral patterns among different providers. DSPN is managed in several settings by primary care physicians (PCPs), specialists, and nurse practitioners. The initial clinical management of the patient is often dependent on the presenting complaint, the referral pattern of the provider, level of comfort of the PCP in managing diabetic complications, and geographic access to specialists. The primary treatment of DSPN focuses mainly on glycemic control and adjustment of modifiable risk factors, but other causes of neuropathy should also be investigated. Several pharmacologic agents are recommended by treatment guidelines, and as DSPN typically exists with comorbid conditions, a multimodal therapeutic approach should be considered. Barriers to effective management include failure to recognize DSPN, and misdiagnosis. Patient education also remains important. Referral patterns vary widely according to geographic location, access to services, provider preferences, and comfort in managing complex aspects of the disease. The variability in patient pathways affects patient education, satisfaction, and outcomes. Standardized screening tools, a multidisciplinary team approach, and treatment algorithms for diabetic neuropathy should improve future care. To improve patient outcomes, DSPN needs to be diagnosed sooner and interventions made before significant nerve damage occurs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetic Neuropathies / diagnosis*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / therapy*
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Polyneuropathies / diagnosis
  • Polyneuropathies / therapy