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The Undiagnosed


12 December 2005

The Undiagnosed

Micro-encapsulated Islets of Langerhans-the cells that produce insulin

Another newsday, another story discussing the problem of diabetes undiagnosed.

One of the BBC's major health stories today discussed a recent study where they actually tested 500 people and found 13 that were undiagnosed with diabetes. Statistically this means that there are approximately 1 million + in the UK with diabetes that do not know it. Most of these people are 40+ and will be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

I found this story (and all the other stories published bi-monthly across the world on how many millions of people are walking around with diabetes undiagnosed) absolutely staggering for the following reasons:

How difficult is it for any doctor or specialist (ie, cardiologist or pediatrician) to find glucose in the blood with routine blood (or even urine tests)? I also find it very hard to believe that a person with undiagnosed diabetes is living a tolerable or "good" life. I intimately know how I feel when my blood sugar spikes - an unconscious state in consciousness.

And then there are the eyes.

Eye exams are pretty routine, especially when you are having trouble with your eyesight. It is difficult to ignore. Shouldn't ophthalmologists, Diabetes Clinics and related organizations be working together? I am sure that most eye doctors can spot swollen blood vessels almost immediately! See the photo of a diabetic eye with retinopathy.

Last on my list is heart disease. Often doctors will use the loss of toes, feet or legs to diabetes as a scare tactic to control blood sugars. However, for me the greatest scare is not being able live to see my daughter graduate from University because of heart failure. I haven't been able to find any studies, but I would bet that a very high percentage of those who die from heart disease also have diabetes. Perhaps many of these people have family who have no idea!

A diseased diabetic heart with atherosclerosis - see black density in cut
When my five year old and I tumbled on the floor in a pile of exhausted laughter, and my pump hit her on the nose, she got very angry. I asked her why. She told me "I hate that thing!" in a voice only a 5 year old can carry. I think she feels this way about her grandfather's diabetes as well. The only thing she doesn't realize is that the pump (insulin) keeps me alive!

If diabetes has become the modern epidemic and routine blood and urine tests would and will help to find the millions of undiagnosed then why aren't governments, politicians, opinion leaders in the medical field and all the savvy pharmaceutical lobbyists doing something to give everybody a better chance?


Blogger Megan said...

Yes, undiagnosed diabetes is a problem. Last year my dad had a blood sugar of 153 during his physical. I told my dad that concerned me, but he insisted it didn't concern his doctor, since it was non-fasting. Low and behold, last month he was diagnosed with type 2. But nonetheless, he is totally in denial. Since he was diagnosed he has tested 4 times, and skipped his appointment to get his A1c. He won't even take his metformin. I think half his problem is that his doctor didn't even use the term diabetes. He just said that his body isn't using insulin well.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Sandra Miller said...

Incredible that inexpensive, routine testing is NOT being done.

Even more astounding, however, is the fact that often when patients present with symptoms of the disease, they are (at least initially) not even tested for it!

Failure to recognize common symptoms-- misdiagnosis-- is far, far too common for a not-at-all "new" disease.

Elizabeth, your previous post was interesting (and disturbing) as well. I had no idea that diabetes was so prevalent in Asia.

3:36 PM  

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