A new national survey commissioned by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) reveals that, while the majority of people with diabetes experience symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) - a serious complication of diabetes that leads to sensations of pain and/or numbness, tingling or "pins and needles" in the feet and hands - only a small minority have been diagnosed with this condition. And, a staggering 56% of patients have never even heard of diabetic neuropathy.
For the 18.2 million people in the United States who have diabetes, it is extremely important to be aware of the seriousness of diabetic neuropathy. With symptoms that can be incapacitating, the pain typically worsens at night, and many people experience difficulty sleeping. The nerve damage can make a person extremely sensitive to even the lightest touch, and simply wearing socks or having a foot touch a bed sheet can cause pain. Often interfering with daily functions and activities, people with this condition have difficulty walking, working or socializing. But a large segment of the diabetes population remains unaware of what they need to do to prevent the onset of diabetes-related nerve damage, how to reduce symptoms or prevent or delay progression.
"These study results are alarming because, left untreated, diabetic neuropathy always progresses. It markedly impairs quality of life and then leads to foot ulcers, infections and, ultimately, amputation," said Aaron I. Vinik, MD, PhD, FCP, MACP, Director, Strelitz Diabetes Research Institute. "Not knowing you have diabetic neuropathy doesn't mean that the condition will not progress. It will still get you."
This national survey of 8,119 people was conducted to inform the direction of ADA's new Diabetic Neuropathy Campaign. The ADA survey, conducted via telephone, screened for diabetes diagnosis and questioned adult men and women about awareness of diabetic neuropathy and associated symptoms, insight into how to prevent or manage these symptoms, and how patients and doctors are communicating about this condition.
Some significant findings from the survey include:
Almost two-thirds of survey respondents who experience symptoms of diabetic neuropathy (62%) believe that their symptoms are associated with their diabetes. However, less than half (42%) have been told by their doctor that diabetes is the cause.
Approximately one in seven people (15%) who said they talked to their doctor about their symptoms and pain reported that no cause was mentioned by their doctor.
Only one in four (25%) survey respondents who experience symptoms of diabetic neuropathy have been diagnosed with the condition.
The majority of respondents who experience symptoms (56%) remain unaware of the term diabetic neuropathy.
But there is good news. "There is no doubt that -- with proper attention, management and treatment -- diabetic neuropathy can be prevented or its progress delayed," added Dr. Vinik. "Knowing about it gives you the opportunity to take care of yourself and prevent serious consequences."
That's why the American Diabetes Association is embarking on an awareness campaign to educate people with diabetes about the possible onset of diabetic neuropathy, the seriousness of this complication, symptoms associated with this condition, and the important fact that there are things people can do to prevent, reduce or manage these symptoms.
The ADA campaign will include television and print public service announcements, expanded content about diabetic neuropathy on ADA's Web site, http://www.diabetes.org/, and helpful educational materials available through the ADA National Call Center, 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). In particular, ADA has developed a patient "pocket checklist" to allow people with diabetes to review a list of symptoms and then take this list to their healthcare providers to facilitate a more productive discussion about their diabetes. This effort has been made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Pfizer Inc.