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Nerve Damage Increases Risk of Death

Posted on Nov 17, 2012

A new study from St. George's, University of London, shows that people with diabetes who also have foot ulcers are at increased risk for premature death, generally from heart attack or stroke.

St. George’s—one of the 18 colleges and institutes that make up the University of London—is a renowned physician training and research college. It is the United Kingdom’s only specialist medical and healthcare higher education institution. The results from the study are consistent with other research findings that demonstrate the danger of diabetes-related neuropathy.

When you have diabetes, blood vessels and nerves can be damaged. Folks who develop nerve damage or have poor circulation will usually be less likely to notice cuts or other injuries on their feet. If these injuries go unnoticed and untreated, they can turn in to ulcers.

Data from eight different studies that looked at 17,000 diabetes patients was analyzed. The analysis showed that more than 3,000 patients with a history of foot ulcers had an extra 58 deaths per 1,000 people each year than those without foot ulcers.

The authors of the study talk about the need for a two-pronged approach for people with diabetes. They say that first of all, there needs to be enhanced screening for foot ulcers. If the ulcers are caught early on, treatment can start sooner and hopefully side step some of the complications. The second thing they'd like to see is lowering cardiovascular risk factors in people with diabetes. The study found that patients with foot ulcers had more cardiovascular risk factors (such as high blood pressure) and that half of the additional deaths were due to cardiovascular causes, like heart attack and stroke.

The full study is published in the November 2012 issue of the journal Diabetologia and also says that non-cardiovascular deaths among patients with foot ulcers are usually because of infections and complications.

Dealing with foot complaints in a timely manner is essential for patients with diabetes. If you have diabetes, make a foot examination part of your regular health routine. Any suspicious wound or abnormality should be reported to your podiatrist, such as the Arizona neuropathy foot specialists at Fixing Feet Institute in Surprise. To schedule an appointment, call 623-584-5556 or e-mail [email protected].

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Dr. Peyman A. Elison
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Founder and Managing Partner of Fixing Feet Institute