Many People With Type 2 Diabetes Are in Pain

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Nearly half of people with type 2 diabetes say they live with acute and chronic pain, and about a quarter have nerve damage, fatigue, and depression. A new study suggests that palliative care should be a normal part of diabetes management.

"Adults living with type 2 diabetes are suffering from incredibly high rates of pain and nonpain symptoms, at levels similar to patients living with cancer," says lead study author Rebecca Sudore, M.D., at the University of California, San Francisco. "Our results highlight the need to expand diabetes management to also include the palliative care model."

Palliative care is commonly used in the treatment of cancer, heart failure, and kidney failure. It relieves symptoms of a disease without offering a cure, and is meant to improve a person's quality of life.

In this study, Dr. Sudore and her team looked at more than 13,000 adults with type 2 diabetes, ages 30 to 75.

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Medical Reviewer: Medical Reviewer: Gerald W. Smetana, MD Last Review Date: Aug 13, 2013

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Other problems

They found that in addition to chronic pain, fatigue, and depression, people with diabetes suffered from sleeplessness, physical or emotional disabilities, shortness of breath, nausea, and constipation. Nearly a quarter said they had symptoms of neuropathy, which includes tingling or numbness in the hands, legs, or feet.

The symptoms occurred among people of all ages, but were more common toward the end of life.

Andrew Karter, Ph.D., at Kaiser Permanente, said the results should serve as a wake-up call.

Need for palliative care

"Clinicians cannot wait until the latest stages of diabetes to focus on these patient-reported outcomes," Dr. Karter says. "Instead, they should consider early palliative care as part of standard chronic disease management."

According to the CDC, nearly 26 million Americans - or more than 8 percent of the U.S. population - have diabetes. Most suffer from type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. People with type 2 diabetes either don't produce enough or can't properly use insulin, a hormone needed to convert food into energy. Over time, the damage caused by type 2 diabetes can lead to serious illness and death.

The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Medical Reviewers: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH Last Review Date: Sep 12, 2012

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