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Health News

Height linked to risk of nerve numbness

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Tall people, regardless of whether they have diabetes or not, are at increased risk for developing numbness in their feet or legs, researchers report.

The condition, known as peripheral insensate neuropathy, is often a result of nerve damage from diabetes, but it can have other causes. The association with height “largely accounts for the difference in peripheral insensate neuropathy prevalence between men and women,” Dr. Yiling J. Cheng and colleagues write in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The findings are based on an analysis of data for more than 5000 people, 40 years of age or older, who participated in the 1999-2002 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Peripheral insensate neuropathy was defined as one or more areas on the foot where there was no feeling when tested with a light touch.

Cheng, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues noted peripheral insensate neuropathy in 21.2 percent of subjects with diabetes, nearly double the 11.5 percent rate seen in non-diabetics.

Men were 70 percent more likely to have the condition than were women, but the difference largely disappeared when height was taken into account.

There was a sharp increase in the percentage of people with peripheral neuropathy once height exceeded 175.5 cm (5 feet 9 inches), the report indicates. Adults above this height were 2.3-times more likely to have the condition than their shorter peers.

The finding might help doctors “identify persons who require more intensive neuropathic screening because of their higher risk for peripheral insensate neuropathy,” the investigators conclude.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, November 2006.

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