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What are your thoughts on this diabetes news article?

My wife showed me this article from NBC news and it made me wonder how everyone felt about the manner in which type I diabetes is dealt with in the media. I hope you leave your thoughts on the writing, topic, how it makes you feel or anything else that strikes you about the article. I'm very interested in your take! - Scott

Surprising number of deaths linked to undiagnosed diabetes

By Linda Thrasybule

People who don't know they have Type 1 diabetes may account for a surprising number of deaths from one complication of the condition, a new study says.

Nearly a third of people in Maryland who died over a six-year period from diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition of severe insulin deficiency, had no known history of diabetes, the study of autopsy results found.

While the researchers weren't able to definitively tell whether those who died had Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, their high blood sugar levels suggest they probably had Type 1, said study researcher Dr. Zabiullah Ali, the assistant medical examiner for the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in Maryland.

The finding highlights the need for regular physicals that include checking blood sugar levels, especially if warning signs of diabetes are present, the researchers said.

The study was published in the September issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology.

What happens when the body runs out of sugar

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a complication of diabetes that occurs when body cells don't have enough glucose (sugar) to use for energy, so they switch to burning fat instead. (Body cells need insulin in order to take up sugar from the bloodstream; in people with Type 1 diabetes, little or no insulin is produced.)

High 'normal' blood sugar may still harm your brain

Breaking down fat for energy produces molecules called ketones, which are acids and can build up in the blood. If ketone levels climb too high, they can poison the body, causing chemical imbalances that can lead to coma, or death.

In the study, Ali and colleagues looked at 20,406 autopsies and found 107 people who had died from diabetic ketoacidosis, although only 92 had data available for further review.

Out of the 92 cases, they found that 60 people were previously diagnosed with diabetes, while 32 were not.

Nearly half of those who died with no history of diabetes were in their 40s. The researchers also found that 84 percent of these cases were men, and 53 percent were African-American.

Adults can be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes too

Type 1 diabetes was long referred to as "juvenile diabetes," because people tend to be diagnosed with the condition during childhood.

But now, "physicians are becoming more aware of the possibility of a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes in the adult population," said Dr. Mark S. Segal, a nephrologist at the University of Florida, who was not involved in the study.

"It's relatively new that we're seeing more adults are being diagnosed with Type 1," Segal said.

Ali emphasized that people should pay attention to any warning signs that point to diabetes, such as needing to urinate frequently, constant thirst, nausea and vomiting.

Type 2 diabetes linked to common virus

People newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes may go through a "honeymoon period," in which they may be able to function even though they aren't making insulin — but that period doesn't last long, he said.

"Once the period ends, they get into trouble fast," Ali said. Healthy people should have their blood sugar checked one or twice a year.

"But if you have symptoms, you should go to the doctor immediately," he said.



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Reader Comments (2)

A few thoughts.
1. This probably has more to do with the fact that doctors are finally differentiating adult diabetes diagnoses between T1 and T2. Years ago, if you were diagnosed with diabetes as an adult, you were almost uniformly labeled as a T2. It wasn't until antibody testing became more widespread that adult diagnoses were typed.
2. This is still sad. I participate a lot on TuD and there are SO MANY people being diagnosed with "diabetes" as adults and automatically categorized as T2 without the appropriate testing. Many of these people are put on oral meds and suffer serious consequences as a result (because what they really need is INSULIN!).
3. There is a lot about diabetes we still don't know. Quite a few folks on TuD describe conditions that do not fall neatly within the T1 or T2 realm. Endocrinologists are hesitant to admit it, but there are more of these people out there than we realize. For these individuals, treatment can be a trial-and-error sort of thing. Ultimately, people have to find what works for them in achieving normoglycemia (normal blood sugar levels). I think the medical community is often too focused on categorizing people and not treating people.

September 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMyBustedPancreas

This comment was left on our FaceBook page and I'm copying it here -

" I agree that physicians need to take all warning signs seriously. I told my daughters pediatrician that I really believed my 2 year old had diabetes (crazy thirst, excessive urination, AND a diaper rash that was not going away with prescription ointment). He assured me that she did not have diabetes. He told me to "Look at her, she has all this energy and looks healthy." I demanded a blood test when he only wanted me to monitor her urine for the next few days. I went to the hospital for the blood test and was called the next morning bc she had a blood sugar of 892. Overall, I really feel doctors need to be more aware of the symptoms...."

September 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterScott Benner

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