Chronic skin ulcers are among top comorbid conditions associated with dementia, researchers find

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Chronic skin ulcers and heart issues are among the comorbidities that are significantly linked with the presence of dementia, according to recently published research findings. 

In a large study conducted in Spain, the investigators identified 12 conditions that appear to be “significantly associated” with dementia. They are: Parkinson's disease, congestive heart failure, cerebrovascular disease, anemia, cardiac arrhythmia, chronic skin ulcers, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, retinal disorders, prostatic hypertrophy, insomnia and anxiety/neurosis.

A “plausible pathophysiological explanation” may tie most of these conditions to dementia, the authors noted. For example, cerebrovascular disease is a risk factor for dementia and pressure ulcers are a complication.

Knowing dementia's comorbidity patterns could facilitate more effective diagnosis and treatment of these conditions, and could inform “risk stratification tools” meant to predict healthcare outcomes, the researchers stated.

Hypertension and diabetes were the comorbidities most frequently found in seniors with dementia. However, analysis revealed that these comorbid conditions likely have little connection with dementia and are simply common in elderly individuals. Type 2 diabetes recently has been linked to dementia-related protein abnormalities, the authors acknowledged, suggesting that more research into the relationship between diabetes and dementia is needed.

The study involved nearly 73,000 people over the age of 64 who received treatment in Spanish primary care centers in 2008. The investigators analyzed information from electronic health records using a variety of statistical methods. Their results are published in BMC Psychiatry.

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