Foot ulcers adversely affect brain function, study finds

Patients with pressure ulcers had reduced memory and concentration, researchers found.
Patients with pressure ulcers had reduced memory and concentration, researchers found.

Patients with diabetic foot complications have an increased risk of developing cognitive issues further down the line, new research shows.

The first-of-its-kind study, conducted by researchers from Israel's Ben-Gurion University, involved 99 patients with diabetic foot ulcers. The patients' cognitive abilities were tested before and after they developed ulcers. All patients reported similar cognitive function prior to developing ulcers.

Compared to patients who did not develop ulcers, those who did showed reduced concentration, poor memory, learning problems, slower motor responses, reduced inhibition and decreased verbal fluency.

Previous research has linked diabetes with decreased cognitive function, but foot ulcers may speed up that decrease due to micro- and macro-vascular changes that occur when they form. Those changes affect many organs, including the brain, wrote lead researcher Rachel Natovich, Ph.D. 

“This study demonstrates that 'diabetic foot' refers not only to a physical condition but rather to a more generalized complex state involving significant cognitive changes as well,” she wrote.

The results of the study, which were originally presented at the American Diabetes Association's 75th Scientific Sessions in Boston, were released online in December.