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Do I Really Need a Diabetes Screen?
By Peter J. Gagianas, M.D.

We are in the midst of a health care crisis. We are all aware of the rising cost of health care, as seen in our escalating health insurance premiums and higher out-of-pocket medical expenses. A significant contributor to these high costs is the staggering rise of diabetes and its complications. According to the American Diabetes Association, 23.6 million children and adults in the United States (7.8% of the population) have diabetes. Of those 60 and older, 23.1% are diabetic! This is a direct result of our aging population, which is becoming less active and more overweight. 1.6 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older each year. According to the World Health Organization, people with diabetes require at least 2-3 times the health care resources of people who do not have diabetes, and diabetes care accounts for up to 15% of national healthcare budgets.

The complications of diabetes are common and serious. The risk of a heart attack or a stroke is 2-4 times higher in a diabetic than in a non-diabetic. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness and kidney failure, as well as limb amputations and nerve damage. By the time diabetes is diagnosed, half will already have developed complications. These complications can be avoided or minimized if diabetes is detected early, and proper care is delivered. A study at Emory University even showed that screening adults for diabetes could yield greater cost-savings for healthcare systems than not screening them at all.

The American Diabetes Association recommends screening all adults for diabetes, with a blood test, every 3 years starting at age 45. If there are additional risk factors for developing diabetes, then testing is recommended earlier and more frequently. Some of these risk factors include: physical inactivity, a close relative with diabetes, certain high-risk ethnic populations, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol, and a history of heart disease.

Make sure you see your doctor for regular physical exams and health screens, so that diseases like diabetes may be detected and treated early. You'll be glad you did!

Dr. Peter J. Gagianas is a Family Practice Physician with Family Practice Medical Associates, South. He has been with Primary Physicians Research as a Sub-investigator since 2006 and in 2008 became a Primary Investigator. Dr. Gagianas can be reached at (412) 831-8089.

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