The effects of age and diabetes mellitus on nerve function

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1993 Nov;41(11):1202-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1993.tb07303.x.


Objective: This project evaluated the association of age and vibratory thresholds (assessment modality of large sensory nerve fibers) in subjects with and without diabetes mellitus.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Medical Research Institute of Delaware.

Participants: Individuals with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and non-diabetic control subjects.

Measurements: Vibratory thresholds were examined in four age groups (ie, < 45 yrs, 45-54 yrs, 55-64 yrs, > or = 65 yrs). The independent association of age, duration of diabetes, height, gender, glycemic control, and smoking history were analyzed in terms of their relationship to vibratory thresholds.

Main results: Vibratory thresholds increased with age for both control and diabetic subjects. Comparing controls with diabetic subjects in the same age categorizes revealed significant differences for vibratory thresholds only in the > or = 65 year old age group. Modeling with vibratory thresholds as the dependent variable showed that age and male gender were independently associated with vibratory thresholds for the controls and explained the majority of the variability (R2 = 0.79). Age, duration of diabetes, and height were independently associated with vibratory thresholds for the diabetic subjects but explained much less of the variability (R2 = 0.39).

Conclusions: The results suggest an acceleration of the natural aging process for large sensory nerve fiber function in diabetic subjects. Thus, young diabetic subjects may be at a risk of lower extremity complications as a result of injuries similar to that older non-diabetic individuals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Height
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / etiology
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensory Thresholds*
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Vibration


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A