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Men's Undiagnosed Diabetes Down

1/5 of U.S. Men With Diabetes Don't Know They're Diabetic, Down From Nearly Half in the Late 1970s
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 14, 2007 -- Undiagnosed diabetes may not be as widespread a problem as it used to be among U.S. men, according to a new study.

The study comes from James P. Smith, PhD, of the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif.

"Undiagnosed diabetes remains an important health problem, but much less so than 25 years ago," Smith writes in today's edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Smith reviewed diabetes data from U.S. men aged 25-70 who participated in government health surveys conducted from 1976 to 2002. The men provided blood samples, got checkups, and were asked if they had ever been diagnosed with diabetes.

In the earliest surveys -- which were conducted in the late 1970s -- nearly half of men with diabetes didn't know they had diabetes. That is, their blood tests showed that they had diabetes, but they didn't report ever being diagnosed with diabetes.

In the most recent surveys -- which were conducted from 1999 to 2002 -- a fifth of the men with diabetes didn't know they had diabetes.

Smith also found that as the years passed, the race gap in undiagnosed diabetes faded.

In the late 1970s, African-American and Hispanic men were more likely than white men to have undiagnosed diabetes. By 2002, that difference had disappeared.

However, an education gap replaced the race gap in undiagnosed diabetes. Men who hadn't finished high school are more likely than men with higher education levels to have undiagnosed diabetes.

"These improvements in eliminating undiagnosed diabetes appear to be larger among the more educated and to a lesser extent those with the most income," writes Smith.

His study also shows that obese men -- who are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than leaner men -- are more likely than leaner men to have undiagnosed diabetes. The reason for that isn't clear from Smith's report.

"If we only target disparities by race and ethnicity, we run the risk of missing other equally important health disparities that affect those least able to deal with them," states Smith in a Rand news release.

The study doesn't break down undiagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes among adults.

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