U Offers Free Diabetes Screening

It is estimated that in the United States nearly 16 million people, or 6 percent of the population, have diabetes. About one-third of those are thought to be undiagnosed, and those receiving treatment often do not follow the required regiment to control the disease.

To alleviate the problem, University of Utah clinics across the valley are offering free screening for, and consultation on, diabetes this month. The free service is sponsored by Bristol Myer Scribbs, a manufacturer of drug treatments for the disease.

The clinics will use a procedure called hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) to measure blood-glucose level in the patient. The test gives the average glucose level of the patient from the last three months. Glucose level fluctuates often, so methods that give only snapshots of the level are less reliable than HbA1C.

The clinics’ campaign mainly targets patients with type 2 diabetes, especially those already receiving treatment. The average glucose level is more useful than the snapshot approach because it allows health care providers to better assess the effectiveness of the patient’s current course of treatment.

“[The patients] can’t pull a blind over our eyes anymore” because of the HbA1C test, said Dr. Greta Branford, an internal medicine and pediatric physician at the U’s Redwood Health Center.

Diabetes can cause a myriad of complications. Heart disease and stroke are at least twice as likely in diabetes patients. It is the leading cause of new cases of blindness. It can cause gangrene requiring amputation of limbs. Coma and death can result from the chemical imbalances in the body.

“The earlier we detect, the better we can treat [the disease],” Branford said.

Diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to properly adjust its blood-glucose level. Some estimate the seriousness of the disease and its prevalence costs the country about $100 billion per year directly and indirectly.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 80 to 90 percent of all diabetes, and its occurrence has steadily increased. There were fewer than two million cases 30 years ago.

Most cases of diabetes are of types 1 and 2. Patients suffering from type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes cannot make insulin and require regular injections of the hormone. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune response?the immune system attacking the body’s own tissues?and is more prevalent among children. Ten to 20 percent of all diabetes is type 1.

Type 2 diabetes results from decreased sensitivity to insulin. It is also called adult onset diabetes because it usually develops during adulthood. There is also data strongly associating type 2 diabetes to environmental factors, such as diet. About 80 percent of type 2 diabetes patients are overweight.

The HbA1C test measures glycosylated hemoglobin, which results from the binding of glucose to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. Because the glycosylation is nearly irreversible and the lifespan of red blood cells is about 120 days, the test result would indicate the blood-sugar level in the last three months.

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