Many Diabetics Don’t Know They’re At Risk for Other Illnesses, Survey Finds

Many Diabetics Don’t Know They’re At Risk for Other Illnesses, Survey Finds

Many adults with diabetes are unaware of their increased risk for certain serious illnesses like flu, hepatitis or pneumococcal pneumonia, according to a recent online survey nationwide sponsored by Merck and the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

The results of the poll — conducted in April 2016 among 1,003 U.S. adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes — reinforce the idea that patients need to have more discussions with healthcare providers about their increased risk for other diseases.

The survey was conducted online from April 12 to 26 last year, among 1,003 American adults with a diagnosis of diabetes type 1 or type 2. Respondents were twice as likely than healthy adults to recognize that diabetics are at risk of developing kidney and heart disease. But they were less likely to make the link between diabetes and illnesses like meningitis, blood infections, hepatitis B and pneumococcal diseases (including pneumonia).

Pneumococcus refers to the bacterium that most commonly causes lung infections, known as pneumococcal pneumonia. The bacteria infect the upper respiratory tract and may spread to the lungs, blood or brain. Symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia include sudden shaking chills, fever and shortness of breath or chest pain, accompanied by a productive cough.

In fact, even though adult diabetics are about three times more likely to develop pneumococcal disease than healthy adults, only one in three respondents knew that — and fewer than half the respondents had discussed these risks with their physicians.


“This lack of awareness is significant,” Mel Kohn, MD, MPH, Merck’s medical director, said in a press release. “Based on the survey, we know that adults with diabetes wish they knew more about certain diseases for which they are at risk, including pneumococcal pneumonia or pneumococcal disease.”

Nearly 30 million Americans are living with diabetes. Between 90 and 95 percent of them have type 2, according to the ADA, which since March 2015 has collaborated with Merck to educate diabetics about their increased risk for pneumococcal disease and others. This joint effort includes an educational resource to help guide adults with diabetes in conversations with their healthcare providers.

“Because people with diabetes have increased risks for these diseases and more complicated medical courses when they contract them, healthcare providers should seek to initiate discussions with patients to bridge the information gap,” said Robert E. Ratner, MD, the ADA’s immediate past chief scientific and medical officer.

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