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Undiagnosed Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

Jan 18, 2013
More than 25 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, indicates the American Diabetes Association, and of those, only 18.8 million have been formally diagnosed with the disease….

In fact, some 7 million people live with undiagnosed diabetes, and as many as 79 million people in the United States live with prediabetes – elevated blood glucose levels, which are almost always a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

Lawrence Barker, PhD Associate Director for Science in CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, stated that, “In 2010, 35 percent or 79 million Americans aged 20 years or older had prediabetes (50 percent of those aged 65 years or older). Similarly, 36 percent of Mexican American adults were estimated to have prediabetes in 2010,” “Prediabetes has few obvious physical signs. Rather than look for physical signs, one should consider one’s risk factors (such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, family history of diabetes, and age) and then have one’s prediabetes status assessed by a health care provider.”

Because there are not many symptoms associated with prediabetes, when it blossoms into type 2 diabetes, many individuals are unaware they have a very serious disease. Prevention is key.

Barker explains individuals with type 2 diabetes can go years without exhibiting outward symptoms, and because of that, just as with prediabetes, it is important for a person to know the risk factors for developing the disease.

“Rather than focusing on symptoms, people who are at high risk of type 2 diabetes are better off seeking assessment by their health care provider.

“Obesity puts one at greater risk of developing prediabetes and, if one has prediabetes, at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes,” said Barker. “Many factors influence one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Some, such as age, race and ethnicity, and family history cannot be changed.”

“These factors can be used to inform someone that they are at risk and should have their A1c (glycated hemoglobin test) evaluated at an interval recommended by their health care provider. Others, such as obesity and sedentary lifestyle, can be changed. People who are currently overweight or obese can reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by more than half by losing 5-7 percent of their body weight and being physically active for 150 minutes per week.”

Different risk factors, besides sedentary lifestyles and obesity, may place an individual at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and they include:

  • Fat distribution
  • Inactivity
  • Family history
  • Being of Hispanic, African-American, Asian, or American Indian descent
  • Being over the age of 45
  • Having developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy

Regardless of diagnosis status, an individual who opts not to treat diabetes will eventually become victim to the more serious health consequences of the disease. According to a report from Livestrong, untreated type 2 diabetes can lead to:

  • Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage in the hands and feet)
  • Blindness as a result of diabetic retinopathy
  • Heart disease and stroke as a result of damaged blood vessels
  • Kidney disease and kidney failure
  • Death