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Aug 07, 2014 07:45 AM EDT

Peripheral Neuropathy linked to Cardiovascular Diseases in Diabetic Patients, Study

The loss of sensation in the feet in diabetics can be a predictor of cardiovascular events like heart attack and strokes, according to a new study by the St. George's University of London.

Diabetes damages a patient's blood vessels and nerves, especially if their blood sugar is poorly controlled. This leads to poor circulation and loss of sensation in the feet, known as peripheral neuropathy. The condition causes the development of foot ulcers and, in extreme cases, can lead to foot or leg amputation.

Robert Hinchliffe, Senior Lecturer and Consultant in Vascular Surgery, said that the loss of sensation in the feet is previously known to be a key risk factor for foot ulcers. This is the first study to highlight the increased risk of cardiovascular problems like heart attacks or strokes.

For the study, the researchers analysed information on over 13,000 patients with type-2 diabetes with no history of cardiovascular disease. They found that patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy, which is identified by a patient's GP, were more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases like heart and circulation problems.

The study suggests that peripheral neuropathy tests provide a simple clinical way to identify higher-risk diabetic patients and provide them with more intensive monitoring or treatment.

"While the risk of cardiovascular disease is known to be higher in patients with diabetes, predicting which patients may be at greatest risk is often difficult," Researcher Jack Brownrigg said in a statement.

"The good news is that peripheral neuropathy can be easily identified by simple tests carried out in GP surgeries. There is likely an unmet potential to reduce cardiovascular disease in this group of patients through greater monitoring and simple treatments," Hinchliffe said.

The paper, "Peripheral Neuropathy and the Risk of Cardiovascular Events in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus", is published in the journal Heart.


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