Can diabetes affect a person's memory?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Seagirl asked...

Can diabetes affect a person's memory?  Ever since my father got sick with diabetes he seems to forget things faster and i really do not get answers from his doctor.  I do not know what to do!!!!!

Expert Answers

Karen Earle, M.D. is medical director of Diabetes Services at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

Diabetes itself doesn't affect a person’s memory.  However, if your father is having many high or low blood sugar episodes, that could be the cause.  Multiple instances of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can cause permanent memory defects.  Typically, people with memory issues have severely low blood sugar levels -- in the 30-40 milligrams of glucose per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood range -- on numerous occasions.  Chronically high blood sugars can also cause symptoms such as fatigue and mental slowing.

If your dad's blood sugars are fairly well controlled, I would investigate other explanations for the memory loss.   A neuropsychiatric evaluation may help determine if he has true memory loss.  Common causes of memory loss include Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.  I would consider a second opinion regarding this issue if you feel it has not been adequately evaluated by your physician.