Lipids and peripheral neuropathy

Curr Opin Lipidol. 2021 Aug 1;32(4):249-257. doi: 10.1097/MOL.0000000000000770.


Purpose of review: Hyperlipidaemia is associated with the development of neuropathy. Indeed, a mechanistic link between altered lipid metabolism and peripheral nerve dysfunction has been demonstrated in a number of experimental and clinical studies. Furthermore, post hoc analyses of clinical trials of cholesterol and triglyceride-lowering pharmacotherapy have shown reduced rates of progression of diabetic neuropathy. Given, there are currently no FDA approved disease-modifying therapies for diabetic neuropathy, modulation of lipids may represent a key therapeutic target for the treatment of diabetic nerve damage. This review summarizes the current evidence base on the role of hyperlipidaemia and lipid lowering therapy on the development and progression of peripheral neuropathy.

Recent findings: A body of literature supports a detrimental effect of dyslipidaemia on nerve fibres resulting in somatic and autonomic neuropathy. The case for an important modulating role of hypertriglyceridemia is stronger than for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in relation to peripheral neuropathy. This is reflected in the outcomes of clinical trials with the different therapeutic agents targeting hyperlipidaemia reporting beneficial or neutral effects with statins and fibrates. The potential concern with the association between proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitor therapy and cognitive decline raised the possibility that extreme LDL-C lowering may result in neurodegeneration. However, studies in murine models and data from small observational studies indicate an association between increased circulating PCSK9 levels and small nerve fibre damage with a protective effect of PCSK9i therapy against small fibre neuropathy. Additionally, weight loss with bariatric surgery leads to an improvement in peripheral neuropathy and regeneration of small nerve fibres measured with corneal confocal microscopy in people with obesity with or without type 2 diabetes. These improvements correlate inversely with changes in triglyceride levels.

Summary: Hyperlipidaemia, particularly hypertriglyceridemia, is associated with the development and progression of neuropathy. Lipid modifying agents may represent a potential therapeutic option for peripheral neuropathy. Post hoc analyses indicate that lipid-lowering therapies may halt the progression of neuropathy or even lead to regeneration of nerve fibres. Well designed randomized controlled trials are needed to establish if intensive targeted lipid lowering therapy as a part of holistic metabolic control leads to nerve fibre regeneration and improvement in neuropathy symptoms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetic Neuropathies* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias*
  • Lipids*


  • Lipids