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Most Type 2 Diabetics Don't Know Disease Cause

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Dec. 1, 1999 (Atlanta) -- For people with type 2 diabetes, ignorance is not bliss. According to a study on behalf of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) in Chicago, two-thirds of diabetes patients don't understand or never heard of one of the illnesses' main causes, and those who don't know have worse control over their disease than those who do know.

There are between 13 million and 14 million people in the U.S. with diabetes. Of those, at least 90% have non-insulin-dependent, or type 2, diabetes. Type 2 diabetes begins in adults over age 40 and is most common after age 55. Nearly half of people with diabetes don't know it because the symptoms, such as fatigue, often develop gradually and are hard to identify at first. But even when they do know, they may not understand what is causing it -- a key factor in treatment.

"I'm not surprised by these results," George Bakris, MD, tells WebMD. "One of the problems we have is an awareness issue. With insulin resistance, it's not as simple as 'know your cholesterol' or 'know your blood sugar.' Insulin resistance is a concept that takes some explanation. One of the messages that comes out of this is that there has to be better education and more time spent with the patient to help them understand what's going on to help them become participants in their care." Bakris is director of Hypertension/Clinical Research Center at Rush Medical College in Chicago.

In people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes, even though the body is releasing insulin, it doesn't lower blood sugar like it's supposed to. This is referred to as insulin resistance and is a major cause of diabetes. In the study, prepared by Yankelovich and Partners, nearly 700 of the more than 1,000 type 2 diabetic patients interviewed by phone had never heard of "insulin resistance." These same people had poorer blood glucose levels than people who did know the term. In people with diabetes, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin -- the hormone that helps glucose get into the body's cells for growth and energy -- or the body's cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body, causing the body to lose fuel.

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