Based on an analysis of Blue Cross & Blues Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) claims data, the company projects that in 2012 10,000 Rhode Islanders will be newly diagnosed with diabetes, a chronic disease with no known cure. According to the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), diabetes is the 8th leading cause of death in the state and if left untreated can lead to serious health complications such as blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage, infections, heart attack and stroke, and lower limb amputations.
"HEALTH reports that in 2008 7.4 percent of Rhode Island adults had diagnosed diabetes and experts agree that the percent will continue to rise due to overall population growth, as well as increasing rates of overweight, obesity and physical inactivity," said Dr. Gus Manocchia, senior vice president and chief medical officer. "Fortunately, diabetes is one of the few diseases where lifestyle choices like maintaining a healthy weight and diet, and staying active can have a positive impact in controlling and even preventing the disease. The heavier we are and the more sedentary we are, the more resistant our bodies are in managing the insulin in our bodies."
According to Manocchia, however, despite the conditions' serious health complications, up to 15 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes fail to get recommended tests such as hemoglobin A1c screenings, which should be done at least every six months, and up to 35 percent fail to get recommended eye tests that help check for signs of diabetic eye disease. Foot exams, weight and blood pressure checks, cholesterol and triglyceride blood tests and urine tests also are important as these tests help detect the other complications that can arise. In addition, BCBSRI recommends people with diabetes visit the dentist every six months and receive an annual flu vaccine.
Manocchia continued: "Diabetes not only takes a toll on your body, but it can also be very costly. In Rhode Island, it is estimated that $722 million is spent annually for direct healthcare costs for adults with diabetes. HEALTH indicates that people with diabetes have medical expenditures 2.4 times higher than they would without diabetes. BCBSRI data shows that people with diabetes under the regular care of a primary care physician receive more frequent treatment, which ultimately helps avoid further complications from the disease."
There are three basic types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational. In all three cases, the body's blood sugar level can climb too high because the body is not making enough insulin or not using it properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body remove sugar from the blood and burn it for energy. When the glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into the cells, it can lead to diabetes as well as many complications that can accompany the disease.
Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, fatigue for no apparent reason, frequent infections, including skin, gum or bladder, blurred vision, slow-healing cuts and/or bruises, and tingling or numbness in hands or feet. Individuals experiencing symptoms should proactively speak with their primary care physician to determine whether or not an office visit is recommended.
To learn more, visit BCBSRI.com/diabetes.
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 BCBSRI.com and follow us on Twitter @BCBSRI.