Pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathy

Clin Neurosci. 1997;4(6):365-70.


Diabetes mellitus affects over 14 million people in the United States and the number of diabetics is increasing by 5% per year. Diabetic neuropathy (DN) is a common complication of diabetes and occurs in approximately 50% of diabetic patients over time. Clinical trials have proven that hyperglycemia almost certainly conditions the development of DN. Despite this fact, we still do not understand the mechanism(s) underlying DN. Several possible etiologies have been proposed including altered metabolism of polyol, lipids, or amino acids, vascular insufficiency, increased superoxide-induced free radical formation, impaired axonal transport or reduced neurotrophism. Accumulating evidence suggests that these defects are likely interrelated and that their interaction(s) within the diabetic milieu are responsible for the development and progression of DN. In this review we will discuss these theories, their interrelationships and how, collectively, these ideas may begin to explain the etiology of DN.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diabetic Neuropathies / etiology*
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / complications
  • Hyperglycemia / physiopathology
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Osmotic Pressure
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species


  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Reactive Oxygen Species