Suffering In Silence: 4 Reasons Diabetes Goes Undiagnosed

4. Concerns about cost

Sadly, many families and individuals avoid going to the doctor because of inability to pay or because of worries that they will not be able to cover follow-up costs such as prescriptions or blood tests. People with lower incomes are less likely to receive specialist care or get regular checkups and screenings. So if diabetes is present, it often goes untreated for longer.

According to Diabetes Spectrum, more prevalent co-payments and higher insurance premiums may mean that some patients may not be able to cover out-of-pocket costs even if they have health insurance. And patients with lower incomes, not surprisingly, are less likely to have insurance at all.

It can be a scary endeavor for someone to go to the doctor if they’re not sure they can afford it. Even if they make an appointment, a diabetes diagnosis requires ongoing care, and that care isn’t cheap. Diabetes Spectrum notes, “…poor outcomes [for diabetics] may not just be an issue of nonadherence, but rather one of patients’ financial environment influencing preventive care behavior.”

If a diagnosis may lead to treatment that someone can’t afford, it may seem more attractive to them to skip the doctor altogether.

Photo: AdobeStock/Anke Thomas
Photo: AdobeStock/Anke Thomas

Risks of Going Undiagnosed

People with diabetes have to remain vigilant in order to avoid unwanted complications, and keeping good control of blood glucose is key to avoiding both short and long-term problems, especially diabetic neuropathy. Poor glucose control can also lead to heart, vision, and kidney problems (and that’s not an exhaustive list).

So What’s the Good News?

There is progress being made. The percentage of undiagnosed diabetes cases has decreased over time. Studies estimate that 16.3 percent of cases went undiagnosed between 1988 and 1994, but only 10.9 percent of cases went undiagnosed between 1999 and 2014. This is despite the increase in overall cases. Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology, says that these findings indicate that providers are doing a good job of diagnosing people once they’re in the doctor’s office. The challenge, of course, is how to help people get there. Dr. Selvin says more efforts need to focus on people who tend to get missed by the healthcare system.

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Photo: AdobeStock/Ocskay Mark
Photo: AdobeStock/Ocskay Mark

What can we do to help?

If you’re not familiar with the warning signs of diabetes, then the first step is to learn them so that you can help yourself and others. Try taking our quiz about the warning signs of diabetes to learn more. If you have diabetes, you are likely already fully aware of the signs and symptoms and can be an advocate for friends and family. If you are concerned that a loved one may have type 2 diabetes, The American Diabetes Association has a risk assessment tool that may be useful.

We’d like to encourage anyone with concerns to reach out to a doctor, or if that’s not possible, to a diabetes support group or diabetic friend. If you know someone with signs of diabetes, talk to them. They may not realize what they’re ignoring.

Inspired to do even more?

If you think that it’s just good sense for diabetic screenings to be a routine part of annual physicals, make your voice heard! Sign our petition to ask the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to make diabetic screenings routine.

Stay healthy, friends!

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