Can Kidney Problems Affect Memory?

As kidney function got worse so did memory and thinking skills

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Kidney disease can affect overall health. Poor kidney function may also affect memory and thinking skills.

A recent study found that as persons' kidney function got worse, their memory and thinking skills also got worse.

This research indicates managing kidney problems is very important for both your mind and body.

"Change in memory? Speak with a doctor."

Researchers at Temple University, the University of Maine and the University of Maryland, led by Adam Davey, PhD, at Temple's College of Health Professions and Social Work, looked at 590 people who had kidney problems.

They did tests of memory and thinking skills and tests of their kidney function.  Then, five years later, they repeated those tests.

They found that kidney function and mental skills changed together.  The more a person’s kidney function decreased over the five years, the more memory and thinking skills were lost.

The researchers also found that abstract reasoning and verbal memory were the two aspects of thinking skills that were most affected by decline in kidney function.

Abstract reasoning is the ability to think about things that are not able to be touched. It includes the ability to make logical judgments based on complex information.

Verbal memory is a person’s ability to remember words, either spoken or written.

In a recent press release, the authors said that kidney function gets worse for people as they age. When a disease also affects the kidneys, a person may have more risk of losing thinking skills.

They also noted that most people in the study were still able to function very well. The loss of thinking ability was not big enough to cause major problems for the patients.

Doctors and patients should work together to manage kidney function and monitor thinking ability.

This study was published in November in Nephrology, Dialysis and Transplantation. The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Aging. Conflicts of interest information was not available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 18, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013