Peripheral somatic nerve function in relation to glucose tolerance in an elderly Caucasian population: the Hoorn study

Diabet Med. 1996 Nov;13(11):960-6. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9136(199611)13:11<960::AID-DIA268>3.0.CO;2-Z.


Only sparse and contradictory data are available on peripheral somatic nerve function in relation to the total range of glucose tolerance. A random sample (n = 708) of people, stratified by age, sex, and glucose tolerance, from a Caucasian population aged 50 to 74 years was invited to undergo an examination including measures of large-fibre nerve function (ankle and knee reflexes, vibration sense, vibratory perception threshold (VPT) at the foot) and one measure of small-fibre function (thermal discrimination threshold (TDT) at the foot). A total of 267 subjects with a normal glucose tolerance (NGT), 167 with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 90 with newly diagnosed diabetes mellitus (NDM), and 73 with previously known diabetes (KDM) were included. KDM was associated with the highest prevalence of large-fibre nerve dysfunction. Within the range from NGT to NDM, most large-fibre function measures showed a decline with decreasing glucose tolerance. The TDT showed a decrease with an increase in fasting and post-load insulin levels (p < 0.05). We conclude that glucose intolerance is associated with impaired peripheral large-fibre nerve function, an association which seems to apply even in the non-diabetic range. Higher insulin levels were associated with a better small-fibre nerve function.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ankle Joint / innervation
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Female
  • Fructosamine / blood
  • Glucose Intolerance / blood
  • Glucose Intolerance / physiopathology*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test*
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Knee Joint / innervation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Odds Ratio
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiology
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiopathology*
  • Reflex
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Toes / innervation
  • Vibration
  • Whites*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Insulin
  • Fructosamine