More Rain

Finding More Diagnoses of Type 2 Diabetes Is No Problem

It’s been a reliable trope about type 2 diabetes for a long time. Supposedly, as much as a third of it goes undiagnosed. But a closer look says that finding more diagnoses of type 2 diabetes isn’t much of a problem any more. In Annals of Internal Medicine, Elizabeth Selvin and colleagues published a careful study of diabetes diagnoses. In stark contrast to the conventional wisdom, they conclude:

Most U.S. adults with diabetes (about 90%) have received a diagnosis of the condition.

Growing Numbers, Growing Diagnoses

Global Diabetes DiagnosesCommenting alongside this research paper, Anne Peters says this is good news. We have fewer cases of undiagnosed diabetes than we thought. And the proportion that’s missed is going down.

She’s right, but that little bit of good news just means that we need to move on to the bigger problem. And that problem is what to do about the enormous and growing numbers of people with diabetes.

Blowing a Hole in Healthcare Systems

The U.S. is hurtling toward 100 million people with type 2 diabetes. Globally, the number is growing toward 600 million. Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen recently warned that these numbers pose a stark threat to health systems worldwide. He said such growth in the disease burden “will blow a big hole in most healthcare systems.” At the Cities Changing Diabetes Summit in Houston yesterday, he called for bold action to stop the trend toward ever more people living with diabetes

Those are strong words from a company that makes its money from diabetes treatment. And those words take us right back to obesity, which is fuelling this threat. Without a doubt, we need more effective efforts to prevent, treat, and reduce the burden of obesity. Obesity treatment prevents and can even reverse diabetes. Prevention strategies that really work are essential for sustainable solutions.

So it’s pretty clear that finding more diagnoses of type 2 diabetes is no problem. We’ve gotten pretty good at it. The real challenge is to make progress so that we will have fewer cases to find.

Click here for the study in Annals and here for the companion editorial.

More Rain, photograph © U.S. Army SSG Robert Stewart / flickr

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October 27, 2017