Abstract The relationship between cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (CVAN) and oesophageal dysfunction in diabetes mellitus has not been well established because reports are contradictory. The aim of this study was to assess oesophageal function and its correlation with CVAN in type 1 diabetic patients without oesophageal symptoms. Forty-six type 1 diabetic patients without oesophageal symptoms (DG) and 34 healthy volunteers (CG) were studied. Both groups underwent CVAN tests and oesophageal manometry and pH-metry. Differences between groups regarding results of cardiovascular autonomic tests and oesophageal studies were statistically analysed. Compared with the CG, the DG group showed insufficient lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) relaxation and a higher percentage of simultaneous waves (P < 0.01). Patients with CVAN (n = 22) showed a higher prevalence of pathological simultaneous contractions (>10%), and the prevalence of simultaneous waves related to the degree of autonomic neuropathy was: 9% of patients without CVAN, 7% of those suspected to have it and 50% of patients with CVAN (P < 0.001). Factors associated with the presence of pathological simultaneous waves (>10%) were the presence of CVAN and duration of diabetes (P < 0.05, logistic regression analysis). Increase in simultaneous waves and impaired relaxation of LOS are more frequent in diabetic patients with CVAN.