Diabetes can cause serious health outcomes, such as heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. But new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that five major complications related to diabetes have declined in the US during the last 20 years.
The study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US. Around 26 million Americans currently have diabetes, and a further 79 million have prediabetes, putting them at risk of developing the disease.
Both diabetes and its associated complications carry $176 billion in total medical costs every year, the researchers say.
To investigate trends in diabetes-related complications in the US between 1990 and 2010, the CDC team employed data from the National Health Interview Survey, National Hospital Discharge Survey, US Renal Data System and Vital Statistics.
They found that rates of heart attack, stroke, end-stage kidney failure, lower-limb amputation and deaths from high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) all declined during this period.
In detail, cardiovascular complications and deaths from high blood sugar each decreased by over 60%, while rates of strokes and lower extremity amputations decreased by around 50%. Additionally, rates for end-stage kidney failure fell by 30%.
'Decline could be due to increased access to health care services'
The greatest diabetes-related complication declines were observed in heart attack and stroke in people over the age of 75.
Although the researchers say their findings show complications "have declined substantially in the past two decades," they caution that the number of adults reporting diabetes during this time period has more than tripled.
In 1990, 6.5 million adults reported diabetes, while in 2000, over 20 million did. The team says this prevalence increase means the major diabetes-related complications remain a heavy US health care burden.
Commenting on the findings, lead author Edward Gregg, senior epidemiologist in the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, says:
"These findings show that we have come a long way in preventing complications and improving quality of life for people with diabetes. While the declines in complications are good news, they are still high and will stay with us unless we can make substantial progress in preventing type 2 diabetes."
Diabetes-related complications - including heart attack, stroke, amputation and kidney failure - have declined in the past 20 years.
Image credit: CDC
There are several symptoms that could indicate a person has diabetes. These include:
- Frequent urination
- Extreme thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Excessive hunger
- Rapid vision changes
- Tingling, numbness in hands or feet
- Constant tiredness
- Dry skin
- Slow-healing sores
- More infections than usual.
As to why there was a decline in diabetes-related complications over the past 20 years, the researchers say it could be due to increased access to health care services, risk factor control and increasing awareness of diabetes' complications.
Researchers from that study say understanding the pathways leading to insulin resistance could one day lead to pharmacological targets.