A recent study from the University of Michigan Health System and the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System found 92 percent of older diabetes sufferers have at least one major chronic condition in addition to diabetes, and nearly half have three or more diseases besides diabetes.
“The sheer number, and the severity, of these other conditions appears to decrease patients’ ability to manage their diabetes,” according to a press release, which suggested doctors learn to better treat “the whole person” rather than that person’s individual ailments.
The study was published online before appearing in next month’s issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Researchers used data from a nationally representative sample of 1,901 adults with diabetes who were 55 years old or older in 2002.
The researchers looked at the influence a range of medical conditions had on participants’ ability to manage their diabetes and whether the conditions were linked to diabetes.
“Patients are dealing with these issues day to day, and they’re affecting the way people prioritize and manage their own self-care,” author Dr. Eve Kerr said in the release. “Meanwhile, we physicians talk to patients about their diabetes, but not about how their heart failure or their hypertension is affecting how they manage their diabetes. These results show that we need to be treating the whole patient, but we don’t yet have systems designed to do that.”
The more diseases a person had along with diabetes, the study found, the more they prioritized the other conditions ahead of diabetes. Participants also often didn’t associate the other conditions with diabetes, such as understanding how the metabolic disorder puts them at higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Lack of awareness of the association often means diabetes sufferers don’t put enough emphasis on controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, for example.
Jeff Raymond, Medical Writer