Observations have been made on nine cases of painful diabetic neuropathy of acute onset. All cases were male and all were associated with and preceded by precipitous and severe weight loss. The pain was of a continuous burning quality and experienced mainly in the legs, especially distally. Contact discomfort of the skin was often a troublesome feature, but sensory loss was mild or absent, and reflex loss or depression not invariable. There were no accompanying motor signs. Depression and impotence were constant features. The weight loss responded to adequate control of the diabetes with insulin and was followed by improvement in the neuropathy. The severe manifestations subsided in all cases within 10 months, and in most cases within 6 months, and later resolved completely in all except one. No recurrences were observed after follow-up periods of up to 6 years. Abnormalities of nerve conduction were mild or even lacking. Sural nerve biopsies from three cases taken in the acute stage showed evidence of active degeneration of myelinated nerve fibres of all diameters and also degeneration of unmyelinated axons. There was a mild degree of demyelination. It is concluded that acute painful diabetic neuropathy is a distinct syndrome, occurring in insulin or noninsulin dependent patients of any duration, and unrelated to other diabetic complications. It is separable from other types of painful diabetic sensory polyneuropathy that have been described.
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