Responsible for over 75,000 American deaths in 2013, diabetes is an increasingly common condition where the body’s blood glucose levels are higher than they normally should be. Most of the food we eat turns into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use to as energy. In order for the glucose to be properly used by the body, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin.
Patients with Type 1 diabetes are not producing enough insulin, whereas patients with the more prevalent Type 2 diabetes are not able to effectively use insulin properly, a condition called “insulin resistance.” Without insulin, sugar builds up in the blood, which starves your cells of energy.
Not only is diabetes a leading cause of death in the US, but it also can lead to other serious health complications such as heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower-extremity amputations.
Below are five facts from GfK’s 2014 US Roper Diabetes Patient Study to help you further explore the diabetes epidemic.
1. Diabetes impacts over 24 million Americans: 1 in 6 US households and is the 7th leading cause of death in the country. Of the two main categories, Type 2 diabetes is clearly more common. Further, roughly 86 million Americans are pre-diabetic, a condition where blood glucose levels are above normal, but not yet high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis. Often a pre-cursor to Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance has begun in these patients.
2. Type 1 diabetes patients typically are diagnosed as children or teenagers: while Type 2 patients, whose disease is not always, but often related to obesity, lack of physical activity and genetics, are most often diagnosed as middle-aged adults. While the ethnicity breakdown of the overall diabetes population closely resembles that of the general US population, younger patients are more ethnically diverse.
3. While there is presently no cure, both types of diabetes are treatable: Most patients are managed exclusively with prescription non-insulin therapy, medications that assist in lowering blood glucose levels. Nearly a third of patients depend on insulin (either as monotherapy or in combination with a non-insulin agent) that they must personally inject or pump. Inhaled insulin has also recently become available in the US. A small subset of patients forego prescription medications and instead manage their condition through a regimen of diet and exercise to keep blood glucose levels at an acceptable level.
4. Diabetes patients are challenged daily with the goal of maintaining their health: Not only do patients need to control their diabetes with daily focus on diet, exercise and medication, but they also must address a host of other concomitant conditions. On average, diabetes patients are burdened with an additional 6 to 7 concomitant conditions with 2 to 3 requiring prescription medication. Cardiovascular conditions, such as hypertension and cholesterol problems, obesity and neuropathy are commonly seen, especially with Type 2 patients.
5. Treating diabetes is expensive: Beyond prescription medication, patients also need other supplies such as glucose testing meters, test strips and lancets. Patients on insulin therapy must also use a delivery device such as a syringe, pen or pump. While Medicare and other insurance cover- some expenses, cost is still a major concern for diabetes patients. Some patients resort to cost-cutting measures such as skipping doses, blood tests and doctor visits or re-using needles or syringes, which ultimately jeopardizes disease control.
Already a huge problem in the US, the diabetes epidemic is projected to grow even larger as our population ages. Continued obesity rate growth in the country is also a major contributor to the rise in diabetes prevalence. Finally, the ethnic makeup of the US continues to shift with growth stemming from ethnicities more prone to diabetes, such as African Americans, Hispanics and Asians.
The American Diabetes Association estimates the total cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2009 was $113 billion and will nearly triple to $336 billion by 2034.. With the patient population projected to continue its ascent, future cost figures will become even more staggering, making diabetes a growing problem too big to ignore.
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