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Apr 18, 2014

Vast Improvements in Diabetes Management

Patients with diabetes are living longer, healthier lives, says study showing a vast decline in diabetes-related complications since 1990.

We’ve made vast improvements in the management of diabetes over the last two decades, according to research showing a significant decline in diabetes complications since the 1990s.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, this study used national survey data to analyze trends in diabetes-related complications between 1990 and 2010. Diabetes currently affects nearly 26 million Americans and greatly increases risk of serious complications such as heart disease, kidney disease and lower-limb amputations. The good news is that by managing blood sugar levels and making healthy lifestyle choices, individuals with diabetes can help reduce their risk for these potentially life-threatening conditions.

After tapping into four national databases, including the National Health Interview Survey, National Hospital Discharge Survey, the U.S. Renal Data System and the U.S. National Vital Statistics System, researchers identified key trends in diabetes-related complications since the '90s.

Over the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes more than tripled, from 6.5 million in 1990 to 20.7 million in 2010. However, a decline in diabetes-related complications indicates that patients with this condition are faring better than they did just 20 years ago.

Researchers looked at five of the most common complications from diabetes, including amputation, kidney disease, heart attackstroke and death from hyperglycemic crisis (extremely high blood sugar). They found that rates of all five complications declined between 1990 and 2010. The biggest declines were seen in heart attack rates and death from high blood sugar, both of which decreased by more than 60% over this time period. Rates of stroke and amputation were cut in half between 1990 and 2010, and end-stage kidney disease declined by nearly 30%.

These drastic reductions in complications suggest that patients are managing their conditions much more effectively than 20 years ago. The only catch, authors point out, is that improvements in disease management are offset by the continued increase in new diabetes cases. We may be helping patients with diabetes live longer, healthier lives but we now need to do a better job at preventing new cases of diabetes. When managed closely, diabetes still increases risk of complications so helping patients make healthier choices to prevent from ever developing this chronic disease is key.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are possible complications of diabetes
  • Diabetes can cause a number of different complications, ranging from high blood pressure and stroke to skin, eye and foot complications. The good news is that by closely managing blood sugar levels, patients can significantly reduce risk of serious complications.
  • How is diabetes managed?
  • While there is no cure for diabetes, there are ways that patients can manage their condition and reduce risk for complications. Eating healthy, staying active, maintaining/achieving a healthy weight and taking medicine regularly (if prescribed) can help keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range.


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