Small Fiber Neuropathy in Diabetes Polyneuropathy: Is It Time to Change?

Provocative work from our colleagues in Ipswich and Kings who have been so instrumental in improving population-based care and screening for risk. If small fiber neuropathy precedes large fiber- are we focused on the wrong thing?

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Diabetes polyneuropathy is an important complication of diabetes polyneuropathy, and its notable sequelae of foot ulceration, autonomic dysfunction, and neuropathic pain are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Despite the major impact on quality of life and health economic costs, it remains underdiagnosed until late in its natural history, and there is lack of any intervention that can reverse its clinical progress. Assessment of small fiber neuropathy (SFN) in diabetes offers an opportunity to detect abnormalities at an early stage so that both interventional studies and preventative measures can be enacted to prevent progression to the devastating complications of foot ulceration and cardiac dysautonomic death. Over the last two decades, significant advances have been made in understanding the pathophysiology of diabetes neuropathy and its assessment. In this review, we discuss limitations of the screening methods recommended in current clinical guidelines which are based on large nerve fiber assessments. Thereafter, we discuss in detail the various methods currently available to assess small fiber structure and function and examine their individual strength and limitations. Finally, we discuss the reasons why despite the considerable body of evidence available, legislators and global experts have yet to incorporate the assessment of SFN as routine clinical surveillance in diabetes management. We hope that these insights will stimulate further discussion and be instrumental in the early adoption of these methods so as to reduce the burden of complications arising due to diabetes polyneuropathy.

Keywords: diabetes; diagnosis; polyneuropathy; small fibers.

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