AIMS:To determine the prevalence and risk factors for neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease (PVD) in the Australian diabetic population and identify those at high risk of foot ulceration. METHODS:The Australian Diabetes Obesity and Lifestyle study included 11 247 adults aged >or= 25 years in 42 randomly selected areas of Australia. Neuropathy and PVD were assessed in participants identified as having diabetes (based on self report and oral glucose tolerance test), impaired fasting glucose, impaired glucose tolerance and in a random sample with normal glucose tolerance (total n = 2436). RESULTS:The prevalence of peripheral neuropathy was 13.1% in those with known diabetes (KDM) and 7.1% in those with newly diagnosed (NDM). The prevalence of PVD was 13.9% in KDM and 6.9% in NDM. Of those with diabetes, 19.6% were at risk of foot ulceration. Independent risk factors for peripheral neuropathy were diabetes duration (odds ratio (95% CI) 1.73 (1.33-2.28) per 10 years), height (1.42 (1.08-1.88) per 10 cm), age (2.57 (1.94-3.40) per 10 years) and uric acid (1.59 (1.21-2.09) per 0.1 mmol/l). Risk factors for PVD were diabetes duration (1.64 (1.25-2.16) per 10 years), age (2.45 (1.86-3.22) per 10 years), smoking (2.07 (1.00-4.28)), uric acid (1.03 (1.00-1.06) per 0.1 mmol/l) and urinary albumin/creatinine ratio (1.11 (1.01-1.21) per 1 mg/mmol). CONCLUSIONS:The prevalence of neuropathy and PVD was lower in this population than has been reported in other populations. This may reflect differences in sampling methods between community and hospital-based populations. Nevertheless, a substantial proportion of the diabetic population had risk factors for foot ulceration.