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2024-05-19 22:01:56

How Common is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, more commonly called diabetes, is a chronic condition that impacts how your body turns food into energy. Blood glucose levels become too high as it is not used up properly, as a result of the body not producing enough insulin (or any insulin).

How many people have diabetes in the United States? What's the breakdown in terms of the various types of diabetes, including gestational diabetes? Who is more likely to experience blood glucose issues?

This blog will look into these questions and more.

How Many People Have Diabetes in the United States?

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that in 2021, there were approximately 38.4 million people with diabetes mellitus, equating to 11.6% of the population. 38.1 million of them were adults with diabetes, ages 18 years or older.

There were 29.7 million known diagnosed cases, making up 8.9% of the population. 29.4 million were adults with diabetes, and 352,000 were children and adolescents younger than 20 years of age. This included 304,000 individuals with type 1 diabetes.

We can break this down further by racial and ethnic groups. Age-adjusted data showed that from 2019 to 2021, for adults with diabetes in the United States (ages 18 years or older), prevalence was highest for American Indian and Alaska Native adults (13.6%), non-Hispanic black adults (12.1%), Hispanic adults (11.7%), non-Hispanic Asian adults (9.1%), and non-Hispanic white adults (6.9%).

More specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that out of the total number of diagnosed diabetes cases, around 90% to 95% of them are type 2 diabetes, usually diagnosed in people 45 years or older, although over time, more newly diagnosed cases are among children and adolescents.

There are still undiagnosed diabetes cases. In fact, the same research found that 8.7 million adults (22.8%) had diabetes but were undiagnosed.

How Many People Have Prediabetes?

People with prediabetes have higher blood sugar levels than normal. While their blood glucose might not be high enough for a diabetes diagnosis, that's what could happen down the line. So, bringing blood sugar down to a healthier range is still important, especially since the American Diabetes Association reports that in 2021, diabetes was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, based on an analysis of death certificates.

Finger prick blood test to check blood glucose levels

The National Diabetes Statistics Report says that about 97.6 million people aged 18 years or older (38% of the adult population in the US) have prediabetes, of which 27.2 million people (48.8%) ages 65 years or older have prediabetes.

What About Gestational Diabetes?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that women can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy even if they've never had problems with their blood glucose levels in the past. Gestational diabetes affects roughly 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the US every year.

Pregnant women develop gestational diabetes when their bodies can't make enough insulin while they're pregnant. Because of the changes that the body goes through during pregnancy — like hormone fluctuations and an increase in body mass index — the body might not use insulin properly, which is a condition called insulin resistance.

While all pregnant women experience insulin resistance to some degree later in their pregnancies, some individuals have it before even getting pregnant. These women are at an increased risk of gestational diabetes.

Pregnant woman with gestational diabetes holding her belly

Risk Factors

Who's at a higher risk of eventually being diagnosed? Risk factors include:

If you believe any of these risk factors apply to you, speak with your healthcare provider.

Diabetes Mellitus and Chronic Kidney Disease

What's the connection between diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD)?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that the kidneys are made from millions of little filters, called nephrons. Over time, high blood sugar (which comes from diabetes) damages these nephrons, in addition to the blood vessels in the kidneys. Thus, they can't function as optimally as they might otherwise.

On top of this, many individuals with diabetes also have high blood pressure, which can cause further damage to the kidneys.

Because of these diabetes complications, chronic kidney disease can develop slowly over time, with few warning signs. In fact, individuals often don't realize that there's a problem until they need dialysis or even a kidney transplant due to kidney failure.

This is why chronic kidney disease is common in individuals with diabetes — about one in three people will experience it. Kidney disease can happen alongside both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Ask your healthcare provider to check your kidneys. This can be done via a blood or urine sample.

What Are the Most Common Diabetes Complications?

In addition to kidney problems, what are the more commonly experienced diabetes complications?

Many people with diabetes have reported severe vision difficulty

The Cost of High Blood Glucose Levels

Diabetes in America leads to excess medical costs. The American Diabetes Association says that in 2022, the total direct estimated costs were $306.6 billion, and the total indirect costs were $106.3 billion, for a total of $412.9 billion.

Even with the sex- and age-adjusted data, the costs of these diagnosed diabetes cases were 2.6 times higher than what they would have been without the diagnoses.

Get Ahead of Your Health

Diabetes screening can identify individuals with risk factors or those who already have significant blood sugar problems but don't yet realize it. Staying ahead of your blood glucose is important to avoid diabetes-related complications.

Learn more about how eNational Testing can help with diabetes identification and management and our diabetes risk profile.