Context: Cardiovascular risk factors are well-known predictors of the development of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), which has traditionally been considered as a manifestation of diabetes-associated microangiopathy. Because endothelial dysfunction is strongly associated with all cardiovascular risk factors, we hypothesized that it may be a link between cardiovascular risk factors and DPN.
Objective: The primary objective of this study was to test whether endothelial dysfunction is a predictor of DPN.
Design and setting: This is a cross-sectional analysis of a cohort composed of patients followed at the Microcirculatory Laboratory, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Patients: Participants with diabetes without DPN (n = 192) and with DPN (n = 166), subjects with prediabetes (n = 75), and nondiabetic controls (n = 59) were included.
Interventions: Endothelial function was assessed with flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the brachial artery. Inflammatory cytokines and biomarkers of endothelial function (soluble intercellular and vascular cell adhesion molecules) were quantified using a multiplex bead-based immunoassay. Neurological assessment included the neuropathy disability score (NDS).
Main outcome measure: The relationship between FMD and NDS assessed using multiple linear regression.
Results: In addition to already known risk factors of DPN, FMD was strongly associated with NDS (β = -0.24; P < .001). Sensitivity analysis that removed FMD from the model provided similar results for soluble intercellular cell adhesion molecule-1, another biomarker of endothelial function. Confirmatory factor analysis further showed that endothelial dysfunction is a significant mediator between glycosylated hemoglobin and diabetes duration and diabetic complications.
Conclusions: This study shows that endothelial dysfunction occurs early in the pathophysiology of diabetes and is a link between cardiovascular risk factors and DPN.