Neuropathy, a condition characterized by nerve damage resulting in pain and numbness in the extremities and potentially leading to falls, infections, and even amputations, is prevalent and often overlooked, as indicated by a study published in the online edition of Neurology® on May 8, 2024, the official medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

According to Melissa A. Elafros, MD, PhD, a study author affiliated with the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, “More than one-third of individuals with neuropathy endure sharp, tingling, or shock-like pain, which escalates the risk of depression and diminishes their overall quality of life. Moreover, individuals with neuropathy face an elevated mortality risk, even after accounting for other underlying conditions, underscoring the importance of identifying and managing neuropathy among affected individuals or those at risk.”

The research comprised 169 participants from an outpatient internal medicine clinic primarily serving Medicaid patients in Flint, Michigan, with an average age of 58 years, and 69% being Black individuals. Half of the cohort had diabetes, a known contributor to neuropathy, while 67% had metabolic syndrome, characterized by abdominal obesity along with two or more risk factors such as hypertension, elevated triglycerides, hyperglycemia, and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol—conditions also associated with neuropathy.

All participants underwent testing for distal symmetric polyneuropathy, along with the collection of data on other medical conditions.

A staggering 73% of the cohort exhibited neuropathy, with 75% of those cases having gone undiagnosed previously. Nearly 60% of individuals with neuropathy reported experiencing pain.

Among those with neuropathy, 74% had metabolic syndrome, compared to 54% among those without neuropathy. After adjusting for various confounding factors, researchers observed that individuals with metabolic syndrome were over four times more likely to have neuropathy than those without the syndrome.

Additionally, the study explored the relationship between race, income, and neuropathy, revealing no association between low income and neuropathy. Interestingly, Black individuals exhibited a reduced risk of neuropathy, constituting 60% of those with neuropathy and 91% of those without.

Elafros emphasized, “The high prevalence of neuropathy, especially undiagnosed cases, in our study population underscores the critical need for interventions to enhance the detection and management of this condition, as well as the importance of addressing risk factors contributing to its development.” A noteworthy limitation of the study is its cross-sectional nature, lacking longitudinal follow-up to track neuropathy development over time and failing to investigate reasons for inadequate management of neuropathy risk factors.

The study received support from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

 

For more information about our clinic, medical professionals, and treatment options, please visit our main website.