Chronic painful peripheral neuropathy in an urban community: a controlled comparison of people with and without diabetes


Dr C. Daousi, Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Group, University Hospital Aintree, Clinical Sciences Centre, Lower Lane, Liverpool L9 7AL, UK. E-mail:


Aims  A cross-sectional study has been performed in order to estimate the prevalence, severity, and current treatment of chronic painful peripheral neuropathy (CPPN) in people with diabetes in the community.

Methods  Using a structured questionnaire and examination we have assessed these factors in a community sample of people with diabetes (n = 350) and compared them with 344 age- and sex-matched people without diabetes from the same locality.

Results  The prevalence of CPPN was estimated to be 16.2%[95% confidence interval (CI): 6.8–16%] in people with diabetes compared with 4.9% (95% CI: 2.6–7.2%) in the control sample (P < 0.0001). Diabetic subjects with and without CPPN did not differ in age, sex, type and duration of diabetes, body mass index, smoking status and glycaemic control. However, CPPN diabetic subjects had significantly higher Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) scores for pain over the preceding 24 h [median (interquartile range) 3.5 (1.5–6.7) cm vs. 0.7 (0–3.9) cm, P < 0.0001]. Also, the total McGill Pain Questionnaire Score (a measure of pain quality and severity) was 18 (13–31.5) vs. 10 (4–16) (P < 0.0001). Of patients with diabetes and CPPN, 12.5% (7/56) had never reported their symptoms to their treating physician and 39.3% (22/56) had never received any treatment for their painful symptoms.

Conclusions  CPPN is common, often severe but frequently unreported and inadequately treated.