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Many primary care doctors underscreen, misdiagnose diabetes

By Tauren Dyson
Researchers say diabetes diagnoses are being missed, and patients are not making moves to prevent the condition, because primary care physicians don't have the knowledge they need. File Photo by Andrei Rahalski/Shutterstock
Researchers say diabetes diagnoses are being missed, and patients are not making moves to prevent the condition, because primary care physicians don't have the knowledge they need. File Photo by Andrei Rahalski/Shutterstock

Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Doctors are the first line of defense against diseases, but what if they lack the necessary information on a patient's condition?

New research shows about 25 percent of physicians misdiagnose people with diabetes with prediabetes, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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In addition, the average doctor didn't know 33 percent of the risk factors for prediabetes, are unfamiliar with prevention or management of the condition, and overall underscreen for it.

Knowing the risk factors can stave off or eliminate the progress of type 2 diabetes, which can lead to heart disease, kidney failure and stroke. However, many doctors aren't able to tell the likelihood of patients developing the condition.

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"Our survey findings suggest that these gaps contribute to doctors underscreening for and missing diagnoses of prediabetes, and in turn, not referring patients to type 2 diabetes prevention programs," Eva Tseng, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University and study author, said in a news release.

The study was designed to properly gauge physicians knowledge of risk factors for type 2 diabetes. After surveying nearly 300 physicians, the researchers found only 42 percent knew the correct value for fasting glucose and Hb1Ac tests that could properly diagnose prediabetes.

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The average participant could only name 10 of 15 risk factors for prediabetes, skipping black people and Native Americans as two high-risk groups for the disease. And about 8 percent knew to tell patients that losing 7 percent of body weight could reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

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About 84 million adults in the United States have prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To correct this problem, the researchers recommend providing physicians with better knowledge about diabetes prevention. They also want insurance companies to cover plans that help to better diagnose and treat people with prediabetes.

"We believe that what was learned from our survey can have implications for changing national guidelines and policies regarding type 2 diabetes prevention, including establishing measures of quality for diagnosing and managing prediabetes," Tseng said. "The public can help by advocating for more insurers to cover prevention programs, along with insisting that public health stakeholders expand access to and availability of these interventions."

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