A new study has found that neuropathy, which is caused by damage to nerves in the body’s lower extremities, is associated with depression in people with type 1 diabetes.
According to researchers at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, in Toronto, depressive symptoms are especially more prevalent among older adults with longstanding type 1 diabetes.
The findings highlight that neuropathy is not only associated with a decline in physical aspects of a person’s life, but also with emotional functional and affective symptoms that have been shown to worsen blood glucose control.
The results of this new study, published in the Journal of Diabetes and its Complications, are in line with those of earlier studies showing that neuropathic pain tend to correlate with some degree of anxiety and depression.
The researchers used data on 323 Canadian adults in their sixties who had had type 1 diabetes for over 50 years and were suffering from either retinopathy, neuropathy, nephropathy or some other less advanced form of peripheral vascular disease.
The participants were evaluated for depression with various questionnaires meant to pinpoint neuropathic pain-related interference with enjoyment of life and mood.
Among those with neuropathy, researchers observed a 25 per cent higher prevalence of depression than that seen in the other groups. This held true even when other factors relative to their quality of life were taken into account.
The researchers did not however test whether greater pain severity in neuropathy corresponded with higher levels of anxiety or depression and lower mental functioning.
The reason for the prevalence of depression in people with type 1 diabetes suffering from neuropathy is still unclear, but researchers believe it can’t only be attributable to greater body pain.
Past research suggested that the two may be interrelated due to the fact that the “feel good” hormone serotoni, which plays a role in depression and anxiety, may be implicated in pain processing within the brain.
The lack of adequate social support can also further raise risks of becoming depressed as disability related to neuropathy increases, which is why researchers stressed the importance of regular mental health screening in older adults with type 1 diabetes.

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