Diabetic neuropathy is the most frequent complication of diabetes and the leading cause of polyneuropathy in the Western world. A distal symmetric predominantly sensory polyneuropathy is the most common of the diverse neuropathies that occur secondary to diabetes. Pain is often the most bothersome and difficult to treat symptom of diabetic neuropathy. Autonomic neuropathy is a frequent feature of diabetic neuropathy and the source of many significant problems including postural hypotension, gastroparesis, diarrhea, constipation, neurogenic bladder, and male impotence. Physicians need to be familiar with the multiple, less common forms of diabetic neuropathy, as these often mimic other medical or neurologic conditions. The cause of diabetic neuropathy is not determined, but abundant evidence suggests that both metabolic and ischemic nerve injury are likely factors. These should not be considered mutually exclusive causes of diabetic neuropathy as both factors likely operate to different degrees to produce the clinical spectrum of neuropathies that are seen in diabetes. Although no effective treatment exists to cure diabetic neuropathy, improvement is possible with glycemic control and symptomatic therapy.
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