Long-term elevated blood sugar levels can lead to autonomic and somatic nerve damage. The most common form of nerve damage is distal sensorimotor polyneuropathy, i.e. damage to the nerves that run away from the centre of the body. This condition primarily affects the feet and increases the risk of diabetic foot syndrome. The type 1 diabetes therapy guidelines recommend that an anamnesis and examination be carried out annually for the early detection of diabetic neuropathy (DDG, 2018).
In 2013, 0.31% of children and adolescents with diabetes had documented polyneuropathy (girls: 0.28%; boys: 0.34%). As such, fewer than 100 children and adolescents with diabetes have the condition.
Diabetic polyneuropathy is rare in children and adolescents. The disease management programme for type 1 diabetes in North Rhine-Westphalia also reports the prevalence of diabetic neuropathy as being lower than 1% (Zi, 2019). However, comparability between studies is difficult due to variations in documentation and diagnostic standards. This can lead prevalences to differ significantly (Feldman et al., 2019). Poor blood sugar control and the duration of diabetes are the most important risk factors associated with diabetic neuropathy. Over 50% of people with diabetes are expected to develop diabetic neuropathy over the course of their life and the condition becomes successively noticeable with increasing prevalence in adulthood (diabetic polyneuropathy).