To determine the diagnostic value of various cutaneous sensory modalities in diabetic neuropathy, we studied cutaneous perception at the dominant hallux of 113 subjects (32 normal healthy controls and 81 diabetic subjects). The cutaneous sensory perception tests included warm and cold thermal perception, vibration, touch-pressure sensation, and current perception testing (CPT). The sensitivity of each modality when specificity is held greater than 90% was as follows: warm = 78%, cold = 77%, vibration = 88%, tactile-pressure = 77%, 5-Hz CPT = 52%, 250-Hz CPT = 48%, and 2000-Hz CPT = 56%. Combination thermal and vibratory gave optimum sensitivity (92-95%) and specificity (77-86%). We conclude that vibratory and thermal testing should be the primary screening tests for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Other modalities may be of use only in specific situations.