Researchers say that a common blood test for triglycerides can enable doctors to identify diabetes patients who are more vulnerable to the serious yet common complication of neuropathy.
Neuropathy is a condition in which nerves are damaged or lost with resulting numbness, tingling and pain, often in the hands, arms, legs and feet.
The study from University of Michigan and Wayne State University showed if a patient had elevated triglycerides, he or she was significantly more likely to experience worsening neuropathy over a period of one year.
The researchers have revealed that diabetes patients with neuropathy should control lipid counts as rigorously as they do glucose levels.
And the most efficient way to control blood triglyceride levels is by avoiding harmful fats in the diet and exercising regularly.
"In our study, elevated serum triglycerides were the most accurate at predicting nerve fibre loss, compared to all other measures," said Dr Kelli A. Sullivan, co-first author of the study and an assistant research professor in neurology at the U-M Medical School.
Dr Eva L. Feldman, senior author of the study and the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology at the U-M Medical School said that with a readily available predictor for nerve damage - triglycerides are measured as part of routine blood testing - doctors and patients can take pro-active steps when interventions can do some good.
The findings appear in the journal Diabetes.