The study confirms findings from prior studies that examined the prevalence of loss of peripheral sensation in populations of older adults with and without diabetes, said Elsa S. Strotmeyer, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. “The clinical significance of the loss of peripheral sensation in older adults without diabetes is not fully appreciated,” she said.
A limitation of the study is that peripheral neuropathy was not a clinical diagnosis. “Monofilament testing at the foot is a quick clinical screen for decreased lower-extremity sensation that likely is a result of sensory peripheral nerve decline,” Dr. Strotmeyer said.
Another limitation is that death certificates are less accurate than medical records for determining cause of death.
“Past studies have indicated that peripheral nerve decline is related to common conditions in aging such as the metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, cancer treatment, and physical function loss,” Dr. Strotmeyer said. “Therefore it is not surprising that is related to mortality as these conditions in aging are associated with increased mortality. Loss of peripheral sensation at the foot may also be related to fall injuries, and mortality from fall injuries has increased dramatically in older adults over the past several decades.”
Prior research has suggested that monofilament testing may play a role in screening for fall risk in older adults without diabetes, Dr. Strotmeyer added.
“For older adults both with and without diabetes, past studies have recommended monofilament testing be incorporated in geriatric screening for fall risk. Therefore, this article expands implications of clinical importance to understanding the pathology and consequences of loss of sensation at the foot in older patients,” she said.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Dr. Hicks, Dr. Selvin, and a coauthor, Kunihiro Matsushita, MD, PhD, disclosed NIH grants. In addition, Dr. Selvin disclosed personal fees from Novo Nordisk and grants from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health outside the submitted work, and Dr. Matsushita disclosed grants and personal fees from Fukuda Denshi outside the submitted work. Dr. Strotmeyer receives funding from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and is chair of the health sciences section of the Gerontological Society of America.
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