U.S. National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health
Skip navigation
MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You
Contact Us FAQs Site Map About MedelinePlus

Reuters Health Information Logo

Poor nerve function tied to disability in seniors

Printer-friendly version Printer-friendly version

Reuters Health

Monday, September 8, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A substantial amount of the disability many older adults with diabetes experience is related to poor function in the nerves controlling sensation and movement in the legs, new research shows.

This type of nerve damage, also referred to as "peripheral neuropathy," can be responsible for disability in older people without diabetes as well, lead researcher Dr. Elsa S. Strotmeyer of the University of Pittsburgh, told Reuters Health.

She and her colleagues found a direct and independent relationship between function of the sensory and motor nerves in the legs and feet of elderly people as well as walking speed, balance, and other measures of physical ability.

More than one quarter of adults in their 70s have some loss of sensation in their feet, Strotmeyer and her team note in their study, published in the journal Diabetes Care. To investigate the relationship between nerve function in the extremities and physical function, they looked at 2,364 men and women between 73 and 82 years old, 20.4 percent of whom had diabetes.

Diabetic individuals had more disability than people without diabetes, the researchers found, and the subjects with more severe diabetes had even worse physical function. Statistical analyses determined that worse peripheral nerve function was largely responsible for poor physical performance, in the subjects with diabetes and those without the condition.

People with diabetes can prevent peripheral nerve damage by keeping their blood glucose under control, the researcher noted in an interview.

Strotmeyer and others are now investigating if common conditions of older adults, such as low levels of vitamin B12, high cholesterol, or mild blood vessel disease might also be related to peripheral nerve dysfunction. However the "jury's still out on whether treating such conditions could prevent poor nerve function.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, September 2008.

Reuters Health

Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

More News on this Date

Related MedlinePlus Pages: