22 October 2010
Australia faces a potential diabetes “tsunami”, researchers said after a study showed as many as half of those attending an inner-city emergency department may have the disease.
Researchers from St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, found that 19 per cent of 725 patients attending the hospital’s emergency department were already diagnosed with diabetes, about double the expected number.
Of the rest, who had no history of diabetes, more than a third had raised blood glucose (sugar) levels and/or raised glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels when given a fingerprick test, the authors reported in the journal Emergency Medicine Australasia (2010 Oct 6, online). (Glycosylated haemoglobin is another, longer-term, measure of blood sugar.)
About three-quarters of this group failed to return for a formal glucose tolerance test, said lead author Professor George Jelinek, medical director of the hospital’s Emergency Practice Innovation Centre.
“It’s a real concern that people are underestimating the seriousness of this disease, and are not bothering to come back and be tested,” he said.
Of those who did return, 13 per cent were confirmed to have type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), and another 18 per cent had pre-diabetes.
The authors concluded the “inner-city [emergency department] has a high prevalence of T2DM, diagnosed and undiagnosed, with as much as half our population possibly affected”.
“If we have this huge cohort of people who aren’t yet diagnosed out there in the community, then we have a very major problem for the health system coming”, Professor Jelinek said.
Last Reviewed: 22 October 2010