Fast Facts About Diabetes
The more I hear about diabetes, the worse it sounds. The statistics on the disease, recently updated by the CDC, are alarming:
- 29.1 million people have diabetes (9.3% of the US population)
- 8.1 million people are undiagnosed (about 1 in three with the disease)
- Based on fasting glucose or glycated hemoglobin levels, 37% of adults 20 years or older have prediabetes (about 86 million Americans)
- Most diabetics (56.9%) are treated with oral medications, but a third take insulin
We all seen and heard the horror stories: patients in the ED in diabetic ketoacidosis, those who get feet and legs amputated, and peripheral skin wounds that refuse to heal. I hear from diabetics who can’t feel their feet describing that walking has no sensation. It all sounds bad to me.
According to the same CDC publication above, “Many people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose by following a healthy meal plan and a program of regular physical activity, losing excess weight, and taking medications.” That’s a tall order for an insidious disease created by lifetime habits. It is the hardest thing in the world to change habits related to diet and exercise.
If 94 million Americans are really walking diabetic time bombs -- that is an incredible number of people -- we will see an increased need for screening and diagnostic testing in the laboratory. Rapid glucose, ketone (and tests such as beta hydroxybutyrate), and glycated hemoglobin (A1C) are some of the tests on the front lines. But on the periphery -- literally -- are tests arising from complications of this disease, such as wound care and antibiotic stewardship.
As laboratorians we have an obligation to teach nursing and other team members doing point of care testing proper collection and testing technique as well as why quality control is important. But we also have a role in diabetes education. A nurse educator may do the initial education and teaching on using a home meter, for example, but we can help answer any further questions a patient may have. We’ll be busy, that’s for sure.
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