50% of Diabetes Cases Going Undiagnosed

50% of Diabetes Cases Going Undiagnosed

Many people are being overlooked for diabetes screening — for reasons such as age or not being diagnosed as “obese” — and researchers are warning such oversight can miss up to 50 percent of diabetes and prediabetes cases.

Dr. Matthew O’Brien, assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University’s School of Medicine, found that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s age and weight-based recommendations do not take into account some racial and ethnic considerations, as well as important medical conditions, according to UPI.

In 2015, the Task Force recommended that physicians screen patients for dysglycemia, prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, when they are 40 to 70 years old and are overweight or obese. But O’Brien said many slip through the cracks. “Just following guidelines, they are not going to be tested if they are a middle-aged adult or not obese,” O’Brien told UPI. “Most of those people not diagnosed have never been tested. Some people have gone to a doctor and said he said they didn’t have diabetes 10 years ago. They think nothing about it. For all intents and purposes it probably means they don’t think they have it.”

To test his hypothesis, O’Brien worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to analyze data on 3,643 adults — who said they didn’t have diabetes — that was collected from the 2011 to 2014 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

Study participants received a blood test. The results revealed that 49.7 percent had undiagnosed abnormal blood glucose.

Broken down by ethnicity and race, the rate of diabetes among participants was 48.6 percent among non-Hispanic whites; 54 percent among blacks; 50.9 percent among Hispanic/Latinos; and 51.2 percent among Asians.

“There is a really big problem with these recommendations in terms of minority groups,” O’Brien said. “Asians are missed. They develop diabetes at normal body weight.”

And some African-Americans and Hispanics don’t fall into the criteria. O’Brien said they develop diabetes at a young age. “Using guidelines of 40 years old, you are going to miss a lot of younger adults,” he said.

O’Brien suggested expanded criteria would catch far more patients with prediabetes. Criteria including a family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome or non-white race or ethnicity considerations would screen many candidates as positive.

“This seems like a no-brainer to screen patients who have any of these additional risk factors,” O’Brien said in a Northwestern press release. “By demonstrating how well these expanded criteria work in identifying patients with prediabetes and diabetes, we’re proposing a better path for the USPSTF to strengthen its screening guidelines.”

“If we find people early and find they have a medical condition, we believe we save money down the road. The problem is the country’s insurers and employers are footing the bill,” O’Brien said. “The earlier patients are diagnosed with these conditions, the sooner they can begin to combat them.”

Given that there is a simple inexpensive blood test readily available — at a cost of $5 — O’Brien says more testing should be done. More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

His findings were published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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