“Diabetic Foot” May Rob You of Memory

diabetic footAny individual having diabetes and related foot complications may also have significantly impaired cognitive function, found a new study.

In first-of-its-kind study, researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) found a correlation between “diabetic foot” and impaired cognitive abilities in persons with diabetes.

“Diabetic Foot” is the most common problems in persons with diabetes. Most foot infections that diabetics face arise from two serious diabetes related complications and that are nerve damage and poor circulation. A diabetic patient gradually loses feeling in feet and may not feel foot injuries such as cuts or blisters. Such unnoticed small injuries can get worse over time and may lead to serious complications such as ulcers and infections, and, in serious cases, amputation.

Now, Dr. Rachel Natovich, a Ben-Gurion University PhD graduate, and colleagues have warned that diabetic patients who have foot complications may be at significantly high risk for cognitive impairment.

“This study shows a clear correlation between diabetes and cognitive deterioration. Diabetes is a multi-system condition that affects the brain, and the risk of a diabetic developing dementia is twice that of a ‘normal’ person. Diabetic foot is a symptom that the diabetes is causing deterioration of the entire cardiovascular system,” said Dr. Natovich.

According to Dr. Natovich and colleagues, a diabetic has a 25 percent chance of developing diabetic foot or a foot ulcer in their lifetime, and, if left untreated, it can result in amputation of the foot.

Till now, no research has focused on the cognitive functioning of ‘diabetic foot’ patients, despite the fact that the micro and macro vascular changes occur in many different organs, including the brain, noted Natovich.

To find the effects of ‘diabetic foot’ on a diabetes patient’s cognitive abilities, Natovich and colleagues looked at 99 diabetes patients with diabetic foot. The cognitive abilities of these patients were assessed through a plethora of tests that were conducted before and after the development of diabetic foot.

After comparing the cognitive abilities of ‘diabetic foot’ patients with those of diabetes patients without diabetic foot, the team found that patients in both groups had similar cognitive abilities before developing foot complications.

However, patients who later developed diabetic foot showed worsened memory, reduced concentration, more learning difficulties, slower cognitive and psychomotor responses and decreased verbal fluency than those without diabetic foot.

“This new information is an important contribution to the healthcare of patients due to their increased risk for medical complications and the unique challenge that they present to healthcare providers. Successful adherence to medical recommendations requires considerable cognitive abilities like intact concentration, memory and executive functions,” Natovich said.

The study authors recommend that the routine assessment of diabetic foot patients’ cognitive changes by physicians and proper at-home care by members of the family could be of great benefit for patients with diabetic foot.

Natovich and colleagues presented their findings at the American Diabetes Association’s 75th Scientific Sessions in Boston, MA, earlier this year.