Patients presenting with painful diabetic neuropathy could help doctors to diagnose depression earlier in people with diabetes. Female patients with diabetes were also found to be at higher risk of depression.
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage which can commonly occur in patients with diabetes if they have had too high blood glucose levels for a number of years.
A study of 181 patients was carried out by researchers from the University of Rome Tor Vergata. The researchers investigated how the presence of neuropathy, other diabetes complications and other health conditions (co-morbidities) were associated with the risk of depression.
The results showed that painful diabetic neuropathy and being female were the strongest indicators of depression out of the health conditions and factors taken into account.
Painless neuropathy was associated with a similar risk as painful neuropathy when it came to developing depression, however, severity of depression was significantly higher when nerve pain was present.
It is not surprising that regular pain as a result of neuropathy is a strong indicator of depression, compared to other complications and health conditions, but the study has use in that it may help doctors to diagnose depression earlier in certain patients.
For example, a patient may have neuropathy pain but may not have disclosed that they are struggling with depression. A doctor being aware of the link between neuropathy pain and depression could ask this patient whether they have symptoms of depression and therefore provide care for depression at an earlier stage.
Earlier treatment of depression could have knock-on benefits such as improving the patients level of diabetes management and ultimately improve the short and long-term health.

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