Tools to Predict Diabetes

Diabetes can be prevented through use of existing risk prediction tools

(RxWiki News) Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease. Knowing who is at risk for the disease is a crucial part of curbing the growing rates of diabetes. Yet, many of the tools used to predict diabetes are not being used.

Almost none of the techniques for predicting diabetes are being used, even though they are fairly accurate. Many cases of diabetes could be prevented if doctors used these tools.

"Find out if you're at risk for diabetes."

There are numerous tools that can be used to predict who will develop diabetes. For their study, a team of researchers led by Dr. Douglas Noble, wanted to find out the effectiveness of these tools and how much they were being used.

According to the researchers, there is a large menu of possible prediction techniques, "none of which is perfect but all of which have strengths."

Dr. Noble and colleagues examined 43 papers that described 145 risk prediction models and scores. The prediction tools, or diabetes risks scores, included factors such as increasing age, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, ethnicity, family history of diabetes, lack of physical activity, and low socioeconomic status.

The study's results show that even though none of the diabetes prediction tools were totally accurate, many of them were reasonably effective at predicting whether someone would develop diabetes over the next 10 years.

When someone knows they are at risk for diabetes, they can take the proper steps to prevent the disease, which for most people means getting more exercise and losing weight, says Dr. Noble.

The findings also show that the majority of the 145 risk prediction tools are not used by doctors. According to Dr. Noble, the lesson of the study "was that despite there being vast numbers of risk prediction models, hardly any of them were in use in clinical practice." Be that as it may, it may not be the doctors' fault.

"Much work has been done to develop diabetes risk models and scores, but most are rarely used because they require tests not routinely available or they were developed without a specific user or clear use in mind," the authors write. In other words, it is hard for doctors to know how to use the diabetes risk scores.

Fortunately, recent research has started to address the usability and impact of diabetes risk scores. The authors suggest that future research should look into interventions that encourage individuals to check their own diabetes risk. They also suggest studying the use of diabetes risk scores on whole populations in order to identify "high-risk hotspots."

The study by Dr. Noble's team is published in BMJ.

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Review Date: 
November 29, 2011