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Diabetes complicates health-care outlook

March 29, 2004|by Christine L. Moats

Diabetes is the fifth-deadliest disease in the United States. The annual cost of diabetes in 2002 was estimated to be $132 billion, or one out of every 10 health-care dollars spent in the nation.

According to Susan Akridge, program manager of Robinwood Endocrinology, the elevated blood glucose associated with diabetes causes damage to the body's cells. It also can lead to complications such as blindness, kidney disease, nerve disease and amputation. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness with 12,000 to 24,000 people a year losing their sight due to diabetes. It also is the leading cause of end-stage renal disease with about 41,000 people with diabetes starting treatment for kidney failure in 2000 and 129,183 undergoing dialysis or kidney transplantation. Diabetes is the leading cause of nontraumatic lower limb amputations with more than 82,000 amputations performed on people with diabetes each year.

The most life-threatening consequences of diabetes are heart disease and stroke. A diagnosis of diabetes in an adult presents the same risk as already having one heart attack. More than 65 percent of the deaths of diabetics are attributed to heart and vascular disease. Heart disease strikes people with diabetes twice as often as those who do not have the disease.

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People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to suffer strokes. After a stroke, they still are two to four times as likely to have another.

The number of women with diabetes who have died from complications with heart disease has increased by 23 percent in the past 30 years compared to a 27 percent decrease in deaths of women without diabetes.

Male deaths related to heart disease have decreased by only 13 percent compared to a 36 percent decrease in men without diabetes.

Diabetes is a deadly disease. People with diabetes can reduce their risk for complications if they are educated about the disease; learn and practice skills to better control blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels; and receive regular checkups with their health-care team. For more about diabetes, call Robinwood Endocrinology at 301-714-4041.

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