31,500 Rhode Islanders May Have Undiagnosed Diabetes

(Providence, RI, 3.22.2011)

Diabetes has become an increasingly serious issue in Rhode Island where approximately 7.4 percent of adults, or 74,000 Rhode Islanders, have been diagnosed with the disease. Unfortunately, an alarming number of individuals are at high risk or remain unaware that they have diabetes. According to the R.I. Department of Health, approximately 31,500 adults in our state have undiagnosed diabetes.

As we recognize American Diabetes Alert Day today, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) encourages Rhode Islanders to become more conscious of the warning signs of this chronic disease for themselves or their loved ones. Symptoms for diabetes include:

  • frequent urination
  • unusual thirst
  • extreme hunger
  • unexplainable weight loss
  • extreme fatigue
  • irritability
  • frequent infections
  • blurred vision
  • slow healing of cuts and bruises
  • tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
  • re-occurring skin, gum or bladder infections.

There are several factors that can predispose an individual to this condition, including a family history of diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, tobacco use, and unhealthy eating habits. If untreated, diabetes can cause permanent damage to kidneys, heart, nerves, eyes and blood vessels.

If these symptoms sound familiar, individuals should mention them to their primary care provider. Early detection and adopting preventative measures will help stall the advance of the disease, which can cause other health challenges and be very expensive to treat. According to a 2006 survey of the American Diabetes Association, the medical costs for treating diabetes in Rhode Island exceeded $500 million.

The fight against diabetes begins with awareness, screenings and, if necessary, proper treatment. Understanding the symptoms and risk factors will help people enjoy a lifetime of improved health. The treatment may be as simple as moderating calorie intake, stepping up an exercise routine and more regular doctor visits.

"BCBSRI has a Care Coordination program that offers customized one-on-one support for members with complex health concerns like diabetes," said Dr. Gus Manocchia, vice president and chief medical officer, BCBSRI. "Nurses on our staff coordinate with the members' physician to focus on improving and/or maintaining health and reducing risk of complications. These efforts are critical to improve quality of life and the quality of care our members receive, and in moderating long-term healthcare costs over time."

To learn more about Care Coordinator services or how to get diabetes management advice, call 459-2273 or 1-800-637-3718 x2273 or visit www.bcbsri.com.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is the state's leading health insurer and covers more than 600,000 members. The company is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit www.bcbsri.comand follow us on Twitter @BCBSRI.

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