For Some, Diabetes Care Worse Than Illness Itself

Complicated daily regimens lower their quality of life, survey finds

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THURSDAY, Sept. 27, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- For some people with diabetes, the burden of adhering to their daily care regimen nearly equals that of their diabetes-related health complications, a U.S. study finds.

University of Chicago researchers conducted interviews with more than 700 adults with type 2 diabetes.

As reported in the October issue of Diabetes Care, some patients said the inconvenience and discomfort of having to take numerous medications each day, carefully monitoring their diet, and getting the required amounts of exercise had a major impact on their quality of life.

Each day, a typical diabetes patient takes many medications, including two or three different pills to control blood sugar levels, one or two pills to lower cholesterol, two or more pills to reduce blood pressure, and an aspirin to prevent blood clots. As the disease progresses, the number of drugs increases and often includes insulin shots, according to background information in the study.

From 12 percent to 50 percent of patients interviewed said they were willing to give up 8 of 10 years of life in perfect health to avoid a life with diabetes complications, but between 10 percent and 18 percent of patients said they were willing to give up 8 of 10 years of healthy life to avoid life with treatments.

"The people who care for patients with a chronic disease like diabetes think about that disease and about preventing long-term complications," lead author Dr. Elbert Huang, assistant professor of medicine, said in a prepared statement. "The people who have a chronic disease think about their immediate lives, which include the day-to-day costs and inconvenience of a multi-drug regimen. The consequences are often poor compliance, which means long-term complications, which will then require more medications."

The study findings show "that we need to find better, more convenient ways to treat chronic illness," Huang said. "It is hard to convince some patients to invest their time and effort now in rigorous adherence to a complex regimen with no immediate reward, just the promise of better health years from now."

The patient interview results "certainly ring true with me," said diabetes specialist Dr. Louis Philipson, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. He was not involved in the study.

"Some patients, if you judge by their behavior, would rather be well on the road to future blindness, kidney failure or amputations than work hard now at their diabetes," Philipson said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about diabetes control.

SOURCE: University of Chicago Medical Center, news release, Sept. 27, 2007

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