Some Diabetes Patients May Be Missing out on Care

Younger diabetes patients were less likely than older patients to see a doctor or take medication

(RxWiki News) Young adults may be less likely than older people to worry about their health, but this can spell trouble down the road — especially when a chronic condition is involved.

A new study from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers found that younger diabetes patients were less likely to visit a doctor regularly.

Maria A. Villarroel, PhD, of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), led this study.

More than 3,500 patients in the 2013 National Health Interview Survey said they had been diagnosed with diabetes. Dr. Villarroel and team studied data on these patients. Based on these patients, these researchers estimated that 9.3 percent of the US adult population had type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

"Ongoing medical care is recommended for persons of any age who have diabetes in order to manage levels of glucose, obtain preventive care services, and treat diabetes-related complications," Dr. Villarroel and team wrote.

In diabetes, the body has trouble making or using the hormone insulin, which helps to break down sugar. This leads to high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood and can eventually cause damage to the heart, kidneys, nerves, eyes and feet.

In type 1 diabetes, often diagnosed in young children, the body does not produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes, usually diagnosed in adults, the body does not use the hormone properly.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that adult diabetes patients visit a health care provider at least twice a year to discuss their blood sugar control.

Dr. Villarroel and team estimated that about 90 percent of all adults with diabetes had visited a health care professional in the past six months.

However, as age increased, levels of diabetes care seemed to do the same.

Among the diabetes patients in this study between the ages of 18 and 39, 81.1 percent reported contact with a health care professional in the past six months. The same was true for 88.9 percent of patients between the ages of 40 and 64 and 93.3 percent of patients aged 65 and older.

The ADA also recommends that doctors conduct a comprehensive assessment of diabetes patients' overall health, diabetes management and risk factors at least once a year. This should include checking on patients' blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Younger patients were also less likely to have had their cholesterol levels checked during the past year. Among patients between the ages of 18 and 39, 71.9 percent had had their cholesterol checked in the past year. The same was true for 90 percent of patients aged 40 and older.

Rates of those taking medicine for their condition and rates of those who had visited an eye or foot specialist in the past year — which can help spot signs of complications — also rose with age.

Dr. Villarroel and team said ongoing medical services can improve the health and quality of life of diabetes patients in later years.

This study was published online Feb. 3 as a Data Brief from the NCHS.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 6, 2015