BACKGROUND: Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is traditionally divided into large and small fibre neuropathy (SFN). Damage to the large fibres can be detected using nerve conduction studies (NCS) and often results in a significant reduction in sensitivity and loss of protective sensation, while damage to the small fibres is hard to reliably detect and can be either asymptomatic, associated with insensitivity to noxious stimuli, or often manifests itself as intractable neuropathic pain.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the recent advances in both detection, grading, and treatment of DPN as well as the accompanying neuropathic pain.
METHODS: A review of relevant, peer-reviewed, English literature from MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Library between January 1st 1967 and January 1st 2020 was used.
RESULTS: We identified more than three hundred studies on methods for detecting and grading DPN, and more than eighty randomised-controlled trials for treating painful diabetic neuropathy.
CONCLUSION: NCS remains the method of choice for detecting LFN in people with diabetes, while a gold standard for the detection of SFN is yet to be internationally accepted. In the recent years, several methods with huge potential for detecting and grading this condition have become available including skin biopsies and corneal confocal microscopy, which in the future could represent reliable endpoints for clinical studies. While several newer methods for detecting SFN have been developed, no new drugs have been accepted for treating neuropathic pain in people with diabetes. Tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and anticonvulsants remain first line treatment, while newer agents targeting the proposed pathophysiology of DPN are being developed.