Diabetic peripheral neuropathy, is it an autoimmune disease?

Immunol Lett. 2015 Nov;168(1):73-9. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2015.09.009. Epub 2015 Sep 16.


Background: Autoimmunity has been identified in a significant number of neuropathies, such as, proximal neuropathies, and autonomic neuropathies associated with diabetes mellitus. However, possible correlations between diabetic peripheral neuropathy and autoimmunity have not yet been fully investigated.

Objectives: This study was conducted to investigate whether autoimmunity is associated with the pathogenesis of human diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Research design and methods: A case-control analysis included three groups: 30 patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, 30 diabetic control patients without neuropathy, and 30 healthy controls. Blood analysis was conducted to compare the percentages of positive antinuclear antibodies (ANA) between the three groups. Secondary analysis investigated the correlations between the presence of autoimmune antibodies and sample demographics and neurological manifestations. This research was considered as a pilot study encouraging further investigations to take place in the near future.

Results: Antinuclear antibodies were significantly present in the blood serum of patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy in comparison to the control groups (p<0.001). The odds of positive values of ANA in the neuropathy group were 50 times higher when compared to control groups. Secondary analysis showed a significant correlation between the presence of ANA and the neurological manifestation of neuropathy (Neuropathy symptom score, Neuropathy disability score and Vibration Perception Threshold).

Conclusion: The study demonstrated for the first time that human peripheral diabetic neuropathy may have an autoimmune aetiology. The new pathogenic factors may lead to the consideration of new management plans involving new therapeutic approaches and disease markers.

Keywords: Antinuclear antibody; Autoimmune disease; Autoimmunity; Diabetic peripheral neuropathy; Diabetic peripheral neuropathy pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / blood
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / blood
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear