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Clin Podiatr Med Surg. 2003 Oct;20(4):671-88.

Medical evaluation and treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

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The Joslin Clinic for Diabetes, New Britain General Hospital, 100 Grand Street, New Britain, CT 06050, USA.


Diabetes mellitus is a major health concern that is only expected to become more prevalent over the next few decades. It causes much morbidity and mortality through various macro- and microvascular complications, including diabetic neuropathy. Currently, there is no treatment that directly affects the natural course of diabetic neuropathy except for rigorous glycemic control, a goal that is not always achievable. Despite these therapeutic limitations, the morbidity caused by diabetic neuropathy can be minimized by early and accurate diagnosis. A detailed history and physical examination, along with carefully selected laboratory tests will confirm the presence of diabetic neuropathy while excluding other etiologies that may require alternative management strategies. Treatment is always tailored to the patient's symptoms. In addition to improved glycemic control, health care providers can provide education, support, and symptomatic relief. There are many pain modulating therapies that are effective in diabetic neuropathy as discussed above. Nortriptyline at low doses is an inexpensive well-tolerated medication that is effective. Gabapentin is an excellent choice when nortriptyline is ineffective or not tolerated. Other anticonvulsants, such as lamotrigine, carbamazepine, oxycarbazepine, and topiramate, may also provide benefit. Judicious use of narcotics is appropriate when other treatment modalities fail. The importance of treating underlying depression cannot be overemphasized. When gait becomes impaired as a result of neuropathy, appropriate prescription of assistive devices will prevent injuries from falls. Ankle-foot orthoses and other orthotic devices may allow patients to remain ambulatory and independent for a longer period. Despite the challenges ahead, the future holds the promise of more effective treatments for diabetes mellitus and its complications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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