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Diabetic Young Adults and Peripheral Neuropathy

Do younger diabetics have the same prevalence of peripheral neuropathy as older patients?… 

A recent study comprised of 399 young diabetes patients focused on the prevalence of diabetic young adults who are already experiencing peripheral neuropathy. The group consisted of a mix of type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients, with 329 of the participants having type 1. Presence of peripheral neuropathy was measured using the Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument, or MNSI. The MNSI is a foot examination for abnormalities, a test of ankle reflexes, and a test for perception of distal vibrations, with a score of >2 meaning a positive diagnosis of neuropathy.

The results showed that in younger diabetic patients, the prevalence of peripheral neuropathy was quite high and even approached the levels found in adults with the disease. This study also identified a significantly larger correlation of peripheral neuropathy with the type 2 diabetic patients as compared to the type 1 diabetic patients (P < 0.0001), even though the A1C levels of the two groups were similar.

Other factors related to a positive diagnosis for peripheral neuropathy in this group were having type 2 diabetes, being older, having diabetes for a longer amount of time, having a larger waist size, being diagnosed with high blood pressure, having lower HDL cholesterol levels, and the presence of microalbuminuria. This study suggests that peripheral neuropathy is not a problem in just older diabetic patients, but is prevalent in the younger diabetic population as well.

Practice Pearls: 
  • In a group of diabetic young adults, the type 2 participants were found to have higher rates of peripheral neuropathy compared to the type 1 diabetics.
  • The prevalence of peripheral neuropathy in young adults is near the same prevalence as older diabetics.
  • Older age, longer duration of diabetes, larger waist size, high blood pressure, low HDL levels, and microalbuminuria were also related to an increased risk of peripheral neuropathy in diabetic young adults.
Diabetes Care, December 2013