One in seven American adults have this condition

One in seven American adults have this condition

It’s a chronic health problem that affects 30 million people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s one in seven American adults. But according to a new brief, nearly a third of those who have the disease go undiagnosed. What is it?


The data brief, published by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, examines the prevalence of diabetes in the U.S. and other important factors related to the chronic disease.

One key finding: the prevalence of diabetes is increasing.

“The number of people with diabetes and prediabetes has been climbing exponentially every year due to two main factors,” says Carol Victor, advanced practice registered nurse and certified diabetes educator at the Diabetes Care Center at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “Those factors are the aging population and the rise in obesity.”

Another key discovery from the brief?

Of the 14 percent of Americans who have diabetes, 4.3 percent were undiagnosed. That’s nearly a third of diabetes cases.

“I am not surprised that a large percentage of Americans have diabetes and do not know it,” says Victor. “The symptoms of diabetes can be attributed to a variety of other factors. And these people may not have regular physician visits or may be reluctant to get tested because they fear a diabetes diagnosis.”

But a simple blood test can confirm a diagnosis, says Victor.

So what are the signs people should be aware of and when should they get tested?

Victor says some common signs include:

  • Thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Delayed healing

“If you experience the following symptoms, you should contact your health care provider immediately,” she says.

The American Diabetes Association recommends testing for asymptomatic people when they are overweight or obese, which refers to a BMI over 25 or over 23 for Asian Americans and patients who have prediabetes.

They also recommend testing for adults who have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • First degree relative with diabetes
  • High-risk ethnicity (African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Islander)
  • History of cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • HDL cholesterol <35 or high triglyceride levels >250
  • Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Physical inactivity
  • Other conditions associated with insulin resistance like severe obesity or acanthosis nigricans

“Women who had gestational diabetes should have lifelong testing every three years, and all other patients should start getting tested at age 45,” says Victor.

While testing is crucial, the main message diabetes educators have for the general population?

“The goal should be prevention, not treatment,” says Victor. “In terms of prevention the message is simple. Eat less and move more. Small changes can have a big impact.”

Click here to take our Diabetes Assessment,  which estimates your risk of developing the disease and determines which of your risk factors are controllable.

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About the Author

Jackie Hughes
Jackie Hughes

Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.