Some diabetes patients may unknowingly suffer from anemia

August 1, 2001

Pharmaceutical Representative

Data from a recent survey of patients with diabetes suggest that the vast majority of them are unaware that they are at risk for anemia and the health complications that can result.

Data from a recent survey of patients with diabetes suggest that the vast majority of them are unaware that they are at risk for anemia and the health complications that can result.

Anemia may be present across a wide range of disease states, including diabetes, chronic kidney disease, hypertension, cancer, HIV/AIDS and rheumatoid arthritis. The condition is characterized by a decrease in the body's total number of red blood cells and occurs when there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and organs to support normal functioning. Major symptoms of anemia include extreme fatigue, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, difficulty with concentration, dizziness or fainting, and difficulty in sleeping. Anemia can also lead to enlargement of part of the heart, a potentially fatal condition known as left ventricular hypertrophy.

Anemia in diabetes patients may be one of the earliest signs of chronic kidney disease, or diabetic nephropathy - a serious complication faced by up to one-fifth of the estimated 16 million Americans with diabetes.

Survey results

According to the survey, conducted by Harrison, New York-based Roper Starch Worldwide, people with diabetes are largely unaware of the link between diabetes and anemia. While the majority of respondents stated they were aware of such diabetes complications as kidney disease (86%), heart disease (77%) and loss of eyesight (97%), only one-quarter (26%) were aware that they could be at serious risk for anemia, and only 14% said they had been diagnosed with the condition. And while 58% reported that they suffer from one or more of the symptoms of anemia, such as fatigue, dizziness, rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath, two-thirds of these patients attributed their symptoms to other causes such as their diabetes (69%) or aging (66%).

"Anemia is a serious condition for people with diabetes, particularly given its connection to chronic kidney disease," said Lance A. Sloan, medical director of the Henderson Kidney Center and H.C. Polk, Jr. Regional Diabetes Center, Lufkin, TX. "This survey shows that we need to educate physicians and patients about the relationships between diabetes, anemia and chronic kidney disease, and the need for early identification and treatment.

"Anemia seriously undermines not only a patient's health but also diminishes the quality of that person's life," said Sloan. "It's important that people understand that there are options that can improve their overall health and the quality of their daily lives." PR

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