BACKGROUND: Peripheral neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes mellitus, contributing the greatest morbidity and mortality and impairing the quality of life. Recently the receptor of erythropoietin (Epo) was proven to be expressed in neuronal cell and recombinant human Epo (rhEpo) has been shown to have neuroprotective and neurotrophic potential in peripheral neuropathy. But there is no report about baseline Epo level in blood before rhEpo treatment with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. METHODS: From Jan. 2000 to Sep. 2006, diabetic patients were reviewed about Epo level in blood, anemia, and peripheral neuropathy in Chonbuk National University Hospital. And we compared the mean value of baseline Epo level in diabetic patients with anemia according to the peripheral neuropathy. RESULTS: The mean value of Epo of patients with peripheral neuropathy was lower than that of patients without peripheral neuropathy (16.3 +/- 7.1 vs 26.1 +/- 29.7 mU/mL, P < 0.05). There was no significance in the correlation between hemoglobin and Epo level in diabetic patients with anemia irrespective of presence of peripheral neuropathy (r = -0.02, P = 0.81). CONCLUSION: We suggest that decreased Epo level in blood is possible to be an additional cause in the development of peripheral neuropathy. However, simultaneously another possibility that neuropathy causes reduced Epo level should be considered, so further studies are warranted in this field.