CDC: Millions have diabetes and don’t know it


As a nurse, I have cared for many patients with diabetes, so a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stating 9.3 percent of the U.S population (29.1 million people) has diabetes did not surprise me. What really got my attention is that a startling 8.1 million of those people are undiagnosed.

That means more than 1 in 4 Americans with diabetes do not know they have the disease.

Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, making up over 90 percent of all cases in the U.S.

Why is it important to know if you have diabetes?

You need to know so you can get treatment and keep your blood sugar, also called blood glucose, under control. When it is not diagnosed and treated, levels of blood glucose are too high. High blood sugar can lead to serious complications, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Vision loss
  • Nerve damage
  • Skin infections

The good news is that treatment can help keep blood sugar levels under control, lowering the chance of getting complications.  That’s why knowing about this diagnosis is so important.

What are risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes?

  • Advancing age
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Family history of diabetes (mother, father, sister or brother)
  • Belonging to certain racial/ethnic groups
  • Personal history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
  • Prediabetes

The American Diabetes Association offers this type 2 diabetes risk test.

What are common symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

  • Having to urinate often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling hungry, even though you are eating
  • Feeling very tired
  • Blurry vision
  • Wounds that heal slowly
  • Numbness, tingling or painful hands/feet

Having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have diabetes. If you have any of these symptoms, talk with your health care provider for further evaluation and diagnosis.

If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your health care team will work with you to come up with an individualized treatment plan. This typically includes:

  • Routinely checking blood sugar levels, which helps people learn how their blood sugar is affected by food, activity, medication or stress.
  • Lifestyle management of diabetes, including well-balanced meals, physical activity, weight management and healthy coping.
  • Medications to control blood sugar, either by mouth (orally) or by injection. Some people use a combination of medication types. If medications are needed, a health care provider will work with you to find the right treatment plan.

If you have risk factors, don’t delay taking action. You may be able to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes through lifestyle choices, such as managing your weight or getting more physical activity.

Helpful information about diabetes is available on the American Diabetes Association  and CDC websites.

About the author

Sonya Flanders, RN, ACNS-BC
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Sonya is an adult clinical nurse specialist with Baylor and moved to Texas from Canada to become a Baylor nurse. She's focused on enhancing health education of older adults along with their families and caregivers.

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CDC: Millions have diabetes and don’t know it