Patients with diabetes who suffer from foot difficulties may be at a higher risk for cognitive impairment. This is the results of a study by researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
One of the most severe complications of diabetes is “diabetic foot.” If diabetic foot is not managed properly it can cause nerve damage in the feet which can result in a loss of feeling in the feet, meaning that foot injuries such as cuts or blisters may go unnoticed, this could lead to infections and in severe cases, amputation. According to Dr. Natovich and colleagues, a person with diabetes has up to a 25% chance of developing a foot ulcer in their lifetime, which if not treated correctly could become disastrous.
However, Dr. Natovich states that there has been no research done looking into how diabetic foot actually affect the brain and the cognitive functioning, "despite the fact that the micro- and macro-vascular changes underlying the diabetic foot are systemic, occurring in many different organs, including the brain.”
The team decided to fill the research gap in their latest study, which involved 99 diabetes patients who suffered from diabetic foot.
Study suggests diabetic foot is 'a more generalized complex state’
The researchers assessed the cognitive abilities of the 99 patients through a series of tests conducted before and after the development of diabetic foot, and such abilities were compared with those of diabetes patients who did not suffer from diabetic foot.
The results showed that the cognitive abilities between the two groups were similar prior to developing diabetic foot.
However, patients who developed foot difficulties showed reduced concentration, poorer memory, learning problems, slower cognitive and psycho-motor responses, reduced inhibition and decreased verbal fluency than those who did not suffer from diabetic foot.
Research done previously has suggested that diabetes is associated with poorer cognitive function but these new findings suggest that diabetic foot may be the cause.
Based on the findings of the research, Dr. Natovich recommends that physicians routinely assess individuals with diabetic foot for cognitive changes.
She says patients with diabetic foot could possibly benefit from a special group treatment that looks to improve diabetes management, diet and exercise, as well as providing information about how foot difficulties from diabetes may have an impact cognitive function.
Finally, Dr Natovich recommends that the health care providers as well as relatives of patients have a more active role when treating and looking after patients suffering from diabetic foot.