Undiagnosed Diabetes


About undiagnosed conditions: One possible misdiagnosis is the failure to correctly diagnose Diabetes leading to a person remaining with undiagnosed Diabetes. Any condition can potentially be missed and stay undiagnosed. For a general overview of diseases that are often undiagnosed, see Failure to Diagnose or Under-Diagnosed Diseases.

Undiagnosed Diabetes: Many people have diabetes without knowing it. In fact, estimates have the number of undiagnosed diabetics in the USA at around 8 million, which is about as many have been diagnosed, so about 50% of people who have diabetes are not yet diagnosed. Typically people are not diagnosed at all because they have no serious symptoms, don't know they are sick, and never seek medical care. Occasionally people are treated for a mild diabetes-related complication (e.g. poorly healing skin rash, eye problems) without being diagnosed as diabetic.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type that fails to be diagnosed. It is a slow progressing adult form, and causes symptoms such as skin infections, poor healing, kidney problems, vision problems, and so on. It is common that neither these complications nor the underlying diabetes is diagnosed until after many years of mild symptoms. The problem is usually that people have no severe symptoms and do not seek medical care at all. For this reason it is important to get regularly tested for diabetes in the most common age group (over 40's). Less commonly a doctor may treat other diseases, without realizing to test for diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is less commonly misdiagnosed and missed because it usually has severe symptoms that force people to seek medical advice. However, it is possible that symptoms such as blurred vision or urinary tract infections are treated on their own, without the doctor knowing to check for diabetes. Because Type 1 diabetes usually progresses fast, the diabetes is usually found within a few months, as it gets extreme symptoms (e.g. urination, hunger, weight loss, etc.)

Gestational diabetes can also be missed in pregnancy, because it usually starts with very mild symptoms. It is important to get tested during pregnancy because high blood sugars from gestational diabetes can harm the baby and sometimes lead to maternal complications.

Undiagnosed prevalence of Diabetes: 5.7 million Americans (based on NWHIC)

Undiagnosed prevalence rate: approx 1 in 47 or 2.10% or 5.7 million people in USA [about data]

Undiagnosed prevalence statistics about Diabetes: The following statistics relate to undiagnosed cases of Diabetes:

  • Estimated 5.2 million people have undiagnosed diabetes in the US 2002 (National Diabetes Statistics fact sheet, NIDDK, 2003)
  • 730,000 African Americans are unaware they have diabetes in America (CBCF Health Organisation, 2004)
  • Half of the estimated 1 million people with diabetes were unaware of that they had diabetes in Australia 2001 (Australia’s Health 2004, AIHW)

Medical news summaries about non-diagnosis of Diabetes: The following medical news items are relevant to nondiagnosis of Diabetes:

Last revision: April 10, 2003

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