Sometimes I get weary of all the numbers associated with diabetes—such as that darn 253 mg/dl yesterday, about three hours after dinner. Uh-oh. Time to inspect my insulin pump infusion site. My mealtime dose of insulin had pooled just under my skin. A site change and I looked forward to seeing an on-target number later.
It won't be as easy to turn around the big-picture diabetes numbers. In an important dollars-and-sense study published by the American Diabetes Association, the total economic cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is estimated at $245 billion, an increase of 41 percent over a five-year period (mostly due to more people being diagnosed with diabetes). That cost includes patient care in hospitals, prescription medications, diabetes supplies, doctor's visits, and more. The average yearly cost of medical care for a person with diagnosed diabetes is $13,700; of that, $7,900 is because of diabetes. What the $245 billion doesn't include: the costs of pain and suffering, care provided by our friends and family, and the load of undiagnosed diabetes.
A large percentage of diabetes care costs come from hospital stays, treating complications, and health conditions associated with aging. Frankly, the diabetes population is older and sicker than the rest of America. If you're young or feeling just fine, that may seem difficult to relate to now. But I trust that you will be with us for a very long time, and the years add up.
We can't do much about our age (I've earned my gray hairs!), but we can work—through awareness, advocacy, preventive treatment, and support—to alleviate the harm and expense of complications and to delay or reduce the number of new type 2 diabetes diagnoses (and we aim to say the same about preventing type 1, eventually).
The Association commissioned this study to help us understand the economic cost of diabetes. With these solid facts, policy makers have the information at their fingertips to make decisions to reduce the percentage of people living with diabetes and to ease the burden we all feel. You and I can strive to take care of ourselves and our loved ones with diabetes. There is strength in numbers.
Kelly Rawlings, PWD* type 1
*Person with diabetes