Aims/hypothesis: Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is a chronic microvascular complication that is strongly associated with poor glycaemic control and also with a worse prognosis. We aimed to evaluate the predictors of the development and progression of DPN in a cohort of high-risk patients with type 2 diabetes.
Methods: In a prospective study, 477 patients with type 2 diabetes were clinically assessed for the presence of DPN at baseline and after a median follow-up of 6.2 years (range 2-10 years). Clinical laboratory data were obtained at study entry and throughout the follow-up. Aortic stiffness was assessed by the carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (cf-PWV) at baseline. Multivariate Poisson regression analysis was used to examine independent predictors of the development/progression of DPN.
Results: At baseline, 135 patients (28%) had DPN, and during follow-up 97 patients (20%) had either a new development or a worsening of DPN. Patients who showed a development or progression of DPN were taller and had a longer duration of diabetes, a greater prevalence of other microvascular complications and hypertension, greater aortic stiffness and poorer glycaemic control than patients who did not have new or progressive neuropathy. After adjustments for the baseline prevalence of DPN, the patient's age and sex, and the time interval between DPN assessments; an increased aortic stiffness (cf-PWV >10 m/s) were predictive of new/progressive DPN (incidence rate ratio 2.04, 95% CI 1.28, 3.23; p = 0.002). Other independent predictors were the mean first-year HbA1c level (p = 0.05), nephropathy (p = 0.006), arterial hypertension (p = 0.06) and height (p = 0.03).
Conclusions/interpretation: Increased aortic stiffness at baseline predicts the future development or progression of peripheral neuropathy, independent of diabetic metabolic control, suggesting a physiopathological link between macrovascular and microvascular abnormalities in type 2 diabetes.