Polyneuropathy relates to impairment in daily activities, worse gait, and fall-related injuries

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To extensively investigate the association of chronic polyneuropathy with basic and instrumental activities of daily living (BADL and IADL), falls, and gait.


A total of 1,445 participants of the population-based Rotterdam Study (mean age 71 years, 54% women) underwent a polyneuropathy screening involving a symptom questionnaire, neurologic examination, and nerve conduction studies. Screening yielded 4 groups: no, possible, probable, and definite polyneuropathy. Participants were interviewed about BADL (Stanford Health Assessment questionnaire), IADL (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living scale), and frequency of falling in the previous year. In a random subset of 977 participants, gait was assessed with an electronic walkway. Associations of polyneuropathy with BADL and IADL were analyzed continuously with linear regression and dichotomously with logistic regression. History of falling was evaluated with logistic regression, and gait changes were evaluated with linear regression.


Participants with definite polyneuropathy had more difficulty in performing BADL and IADL than participants without polyneuropathy. Polyneuropathy related to worse scores of all BADL components (especially walking) and 3 IADL components (housekeeping, traveling, and shopping). Participants with definite polyneuropathy were more likely to fall, and these falls more often resulted in injury. Participants with polyneuropathy had worse gait parameters on the walkway, including lower walking speed and cadence, and more errors in tandem walking.


Chronic polyneuropathy strongly associates with impairment in the ability to perform daily activities and relates to worse gait and an increased history of falling.

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