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World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jan 14;13(2):175-91.

Early diabetic neuropathy: triggers and mechanisms.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Slot 515, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 West Markham Street, Little Rock, AR 72205, United States.


Peripheral neuropathy, and specifically distal peripheral neuropathy (DPN), is one of the most frequent and troublesome complications of diabetes mellitus. It is the major reason for morbidity and mortality among diabetic patients. It is also frequently associated with debilitating pain. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the natural history and pathogenesis of this disease remains limited. For a long time hyperglycemia was viewed as a major, if not the sole factor, responsible for all symptomatic presentations of DPN. Multiple clinical observations and animal studies supported this view. The control of blood glucose as an obligatory step of therapy to delay or reverse DPN is no longer an arguable issue. However, while supporting evidence for the glycemic hypothesis has accumulated, multiple controversies accumulated as well. It is obvious now that DPN cannot be fully understood without considering factors besides hyperglycemia. Some symptoms of DPN may develop with little, if any, correlation with the glycemic status of a patient. It is also clear that identification of these putative non-glycemic mechanisms of DPN is of utmost importance for our understanding of failures with existing treatments and for the development of new approaches for diagnosis and therapy of DPN. In this work we will review the strengths and weaknesses of the glycemic hypothesis, focusing on clinical and animal data and on the pathogenesis of early stages and triggers of DPN other than hyperglycemia.

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