Diabetes Health

Many People with Type 2 Diabetes Are in Pain

Nearly half of people with type 2 diabetes say they live with acute and chronic pain, and about a quarter have nerve damage, fatigue, and depression. A new study suggests that palliative care should be a normal part of diabetes management.

Photo of a person holding her foot

"Adults living with type 2 diabetes are suffering from incredibly high rates of pain and nonpain symptoms, at levels similar to patients living with cancer," says lead study author Rebecca Sudore, M.D., at the University of California, San Francisco. "Our results highlight the need to expand diabetes management to also include the palliative care model."

Palliative care is commonly used in the treatment of cancer, heart failure, and kidney failure. It relieves symptoms of a disease without offering a cure, and is meant to improve a person's quality of life.

In this study, Dr. Sudore and her team looked at more than 13,000 adults with type 2 diabetes, ages 30 to 75.

Other problems

They found that in addition to chronic pain, fatigue, and depression, people with diabetes suffered from sleeplessness, physical or emotional disabilities, shortness of breath, nausea, and constipation. Nearly a quarter said they had symptoms of neuropathy, which includes tingling or numbness in the hands, legs, or feet.

The symptoms occurred among people of all ages, but were more common toward the end of life.

Andrew Karter, Ph.D., at Kaiser Permanente, said the results should serve as a wake-up call.

Need for palliative care

"Clinicians cannot wait until the latest stages of diabetes to focus on these patient-reported outcomes," Dr. Karter says. "Instead, they should consider early palliative care as part of standard chronic disease management."

According to the CDC, nearly 26 million Americans - or more than 8 percent of the U.S. population - have diabetes. Most suffer from type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. People with type 2 diabetes either don't produce enough or can't properly use insulin, a hormone needed to convert food into energy. Over time, the damage caused by type 2 diabetes can lead to serious illness and death.

The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Diabetes Association - Living with Diabetes

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse - Complications of Diabetes

October 2012

Your Diabetes Health Care Team

Diabetes affects your body in many complex ways, and having a team to help you stay as healthy as possible, for as long as possible, is critical.

It's important to think of your health care team as respected, knowledgeable people who are partners in your care. Don't expect them to second-guess all your needs, or even to remember all the details of your care. They depend on you to tell them honestly how you feel and what concerns you have.

Typically, you may need several, if not all, of these health professionals:

  • Primary care physician (PCP). This person coordinates all of your health care needs, including your diabetes care. The PCP may be a family practice doctor, internist, or other general practitioner. Your PCP may occasionally refer you to an eye doctor, foot doctor, heart doctor, or other specialist.

  • Certified diabetes nurse educator. The nurse educator has special training in treating and caring for people with diabetes and will provide you with information about diabetes and teach you practical aspects of daily self-care.

  • Eye doctor. Diabetes can affect the blood vessels in the eyes and lead to blindness. Choose an eye doctor with experience in identifying and treating diabetic eye disease.

  • Podiatrist. Uncontrolled diabetes may lead to poor blood flow, sores, and infections in the feet and lower legs. A podiatrist specializes in these areas of the body and can identify potential problems before they become more serious

  • Registered Dietician (RD). An RD works with you to determine an appropriate meal plan for you, based on your weight goals, the mediations you take, and other factors. Look for an RD who has training in and experience with diabetes.

  • Social worker/psychologist/psychiatrist/marriage and family therapist. Managing a chronic illness involves many physical, emotional, and economic challenges - not just for you, but also for your family. These professionals can help you and your family learn how to cope with the emotional issues and stress of living with diabetes.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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