Background. Damage of the peripheral nervous system is particularly frequent in diabetes mellitus (DM), but somatic cranial neuropathies usually presenting as mononeuropathies are rare. Oculomotor and facial nerves are among the most commonly affected, whereas the Vth, IXth and Xth cranial nerves are less often affected. While existing neurophysiological tests in the subclinical diagnosis of damage to the peripheral nerve in diabetic patients have advanced, the same does not hold true for the subclinical diagnosis of the central nervous system (CNS), Electrophysiological studies such as the blink reflex was shown to be an effective method for revealing subclinical involvement of cranial nerves in generalised neuropathies. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the efficacy of blink reflex as a method for obtaining early diagnosis of cranial nerve involvement in diabetic patients frequently affected with peripheral neuropathy. Methods. Twenty diabetic patients with electrophysiologically confirmed neuropathy were included in the present study for the evaluation of blink reflex. Patients with earlier cranial nerve involvement were excluded. Results. Abnormal blink reflex responses were found in 55% of patients studied. R2Y and R2C latencies in diabetic patients were prolonged relative to controls (p<0.001 and p<0.001, respectively). However R1 values in diabetic patients did not differ significantly from those of normal controls (p<0.5). R2Y and R2C prolongation showed a positive correlation with the duration of disease (p=0.015 and p=0.009, respectively). However the same correlation could not be found with R1 values. No correlations were found between R1, R2Y, R2C values and HbA1c nor between R1, R2Y, R2C values and patients' age. Conclusion. We suggest that blink reflex testing is a useful method for obtaining early diagnosis of cranial nerve compromise in diabetic patients who do not show any clinical symptoms or signs of CNS involvement. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.