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Anemia Neglected in People with Diabetes

May 5, 2002

Anemia affects a significant proportion of people with diabetes and is a key indicator of early kidney disease. However, it is only beginning to attract the attention of diabetologists and nephrologists, say European researchers.

The NOP survey results, announced at the 38th European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Budapest, show that although more than 85 per cent of people with diabetes are tested for eye problems, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, only 1 per cent are tested for anemia.

"Only recently has it become clear that anemia may be an important component of diabetic nephropathy and that it may be more severe and occur at a much earlier stage of the disease than has been previously appreciated," said Dr Stephen Thomas, consultant diabetologist at King’s College Hospital, London.

A total of 1,054 people with diabetes were interviewed by telephone. The survey found that up to 15 per cent had experienced anemia, yet only 3 per cent knew that anemia could be related to kidney disease. Furthermore, although nearly half of those with anemia took time off work due to tiredness, only 4 per cent believed it could be due to anemia.

The general perspective on quality of life was positive, however, with 69 per cent saying their health was generally good, although 90 per cent agreed that having diabetes was "a hassle".

Commenting on the survey, Professor Norbert Lameire, from the Department of Nephrology, University Hospital in Ghent, Belgium, said that there was a "lack of awareness" in both patients and physicians.

"The detrimental effects of anemia begin well before kidney function deteriorates to the point of requiring dialysis," he said. "Early referral of patients with kidney disease is therefore vital if we are to reduce the burden of this condition." According to Dr Donal O’Donoghue of Hope Hospital in Salford, the UK, tests for anemia are now easy to perform and treatment no longer involves blood transfusions. He said that the availability of erythropoetin treatments, which stimulate bone marrow cells to produce mature red blood cells, means that people can now administer their own treatment without the need for hospital visit. Source: 38th EASD Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, Budapest, September 1-5, 2002