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Diabetes Book Aims at Family Doctors

Informed health practitioners can help with earlier diagnoses

MONDAY, Jan. 28, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- The latest research in diabetes treatment and prevention isn't much use if the people who see patients don't know about it.

That's why a specialist with a Harvard-affiliated diabetes center in Boston has written a book for primary care health practitioners that provides the latest information on the care and treatment of the disease -- information that until now was usually available only at specialized diabetes treatment centers.

"This book is aimed at health-care professionals who are in the front lines in taking care of patients -- not just doctors, but nurses, health practitioners and even mental health professionals," says Dr. Richard S. Beaser of his book, Joslin's Diabetes Deskbook: A Guide for Primary Care Providers.

"The field of diabetes treatment is changing rapidly -- we can intervene now to prevent problems down the road -- and this book allows health professionals to be very effective early on in the disease process."

Such help is not coming too soon, as the incidence of diabetes has increased by more than 35 percent in the last decade, a result of several factors, Beaser says. One, ironically, is that improved care for diabetes patients has meant they have gone on to have their own families, and passed along a predisposition for the disease to their children.

However, less positive is the increase in overweight Americans who don't exercise, both of which are linked to diabetes. This has caused an increase in diabetes among the elderly and, particularly worrisome, among children -- 85 percent of children who have diabetes are also obese, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

"People who have a predisposition for diabetes get it sooner," he says.

The book outlines the latest information on diagnosing the disease, particularly important in recognizing Type II diabetes in children. Type I diabetes, which means that the body produces no insulin at all, was formerly almost always the only type of diabetes that afflicted children. The symptoms -- weight loss, frequent urination, blurred vision -- were easy to recognize.

The other type of diabetes, Type II, when the body does produce insulin but can't process it properly, was and is far more common among adults. However, now the ADA reports the incidence of Type II diabetes among children rose from 4 percent in 1990 to as high as 45 percent of the cases by the end of the decade.

What makes this especially troublesome, Beaser says, is that the symptoms for Type II diabetes are subtle and often are found only after looking at other indicators like weight, family history or high blood pressure.

"While people are more aware of the increase in Type II diabetes -- there's been a lot of talk about the Type II epidemic among kids -- doctors aren't used to treating it. They need to learn the skills of dealing with it," Beaser says.

In addition to the diagnostic information, the book discusses drug therapies, how to set up insulin treatment programs for patients, and how to reduce risk for the disease. It also informs doctors about how to help patients manage their illnesses with nutrition information and exercise therapies based on the latest research.

"Primary care providers have a huge challenge with all the information they have to keep up with in medicine," Beaser says.

What To Do

You can find out if you are at risk for Type II diabetes at the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Another good source of diabetes information is the American Diabetes Association.

SOURCES: Interview with Richard S. Beaser, M.D., executive director, professional education department, Joslin Diabetes Center, and assistant clinical professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School Boston; Joslin's Diabetes Deskbook: A Guide for Primary Care Providers
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