Diabetic neuropathy is defined, and theories of its pathogenesis are reviewed. Recent studies designed to investigate the influence of plasma glucose on nerve function in noninsulin-dependent diabetic patients are summarized. Motor nerve conduction velocities in the median and peroneal nerves were measured using a double-stimulus technique, and sensory conduction velocity was measured by conventional methods before and after therapy with oral agents or insulin. The degree of hyperglycemia was assessed by measurement of fasting plasma glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin concentrations. The degree of slowing in motor nerve conduction velocity in untreated patients was found to correlate with the fasting plasma glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin concentrations, but sensory nerve function, although abnormal, did not show such correlation. Reduction of hyperglycemia was associated with improvement in motor nerve conduction velocity in the peroneal and median motor nerves of these patients, but sensory nerve conduction velocity showed no such improvement. Improvement in median motor nerve conduction velocity was directly related to the degree of reduction in fasting plasma glucose concentration. These findings suggest that metabolic factors related to hyperglycemia are important in the impaired motor nerve function seen in noninsulin-dependent patients with maturity-onset diabetes.