Diabetic autonomic neuropathy (DAN) represents a major complication of diabetes mellitus but there is considerable uncertainty about its incidence, prevalence, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and prognosis. There are conflicting opinions about the pathogenesis of DAN: the 'classical hypothesis' has been supplemented by some new insights. Clinical symptoms of autonomic neuropathy do not generally occur until long after the onset of diabetes. DAN seems to be detectable even in asymptomatic children and adolescents with diabetes and is associated with the most serious consequences, such as cardiovascular dysfunction. Because of its association with a variety of adverse outcomes, including cardiovascular deaths, cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy is the most clinically important and well-studied form of DAN. No form of therapy in DAN has been identified that provides unequivocal, safe, and effective stabilization or reversal of the condition, just a near normal control of blood glucose in the early years after the onset of diabetes that may delay the development of clinically significant nerve impairment. This article reviews recent developments in knowledge of epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical symptoms, diagnosis, and therapy of DAN.
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