The prevalence of various forms of peripheral neuropathy has not been previously assessed in large series of patients with essential mixed cryoglobulinaemia (EMC). Clinical and electrophysiological signs of peripheral neuropathy were observed in 21 of 37 EMC patients, consisting of polyneuropathy in 19, mononeuropathy or multiple mononeuropathy in eight, and both in six. The various forms of peripheral neuropathy occurred differently in the subgroups of EMC. Isolated polyneuropathy was more common with type II (eight of 10) than type III EMC (two of eight). Multifocal neuropathy, in association with polyneuropathy, was the most common form in type III EMC (five of eight). Patients with peripheral neuropathy and type II EMC were significantly older than type II EMC patients without neuropathy, regarding present age and age of onset of EMC. Patients with peripheral neuropathy and type III EMC tended to have higher values of ESR and IgM than type III EMC patients without neuropathy. Electrophysiological findings and sural nerve biopsy specimens (nine cases) showed prominent axonal changes. Vascular changes included vasculitis and alterations of the endoneurial microvessels in type II and type III EMC. Our findings suggest that distinct pathogenic factors are implicated in the subgroups of cryoglobulinaemic neuropathy, possibly inducing different types of vascular changes underlying polyneuropathy or, respectively, mononeuropathy and multiple mononeuropathy.
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