Silent Disease Diabets Often Goes Undiagnosed For 5-10 Years

Armen Hareyan's picture

It is estimated that nearly one third of Type 2 diabetes cases are unaware that they have the disease, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH.) In 2006, more than 140,000 undiagnosed Marylanders joined the ranks of 334,000 others who knew they had the disease.

"The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are subtle," said DHMH Secretary John M. Colmers. "People can go undiagnosed for five to 10 years before complications become evident."

Many people will not notice anything wrong, but symptoms that may signal diabetes include unusual hunger, excessive thirst, constant urination and unintended weight loss. Risk factors can include being overweight or obese, not being physically active, high blood pressure and a family history of the disease. Women who are pregnant or those who have a baby that weighs more than nine pounds at birth are also at risk. The disease is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.


Often described as a silent disease, diabetes means your blood sugar is too high. When this happens, it can harm your eyes, nerves, kidneys and heart. It can lead to amputations. And, your risk of acquiring the disease goes up as you age, gain weight or fail to stay active.

Yet there are steps you can take to delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Measures include losing weight if you are overweight, staying active most days of the week and eating low fat meals that include vegetables, fruits and whole grain foods.

Once diabetes is diagnosed, treatment goals are to keep the blood sugar as close to normal as possible. By doing this, the chances of complications from diabetes are reduced. Treatment options include eating a healthier and balanced diet, physical activity, and medications. It is important that a person with diabetes manage his or her own care every day with a team of professionals including a primary provider, dietitian, diabetes educator and in some cases, the pharmacist.

DHMH encourages its healthcare partners across the state to take some time on March 25, "Diabetes Alert Day," to provide information and urge people to take a risk test. To assist with this effort, the Department provided educational brochures to local health departments, community-based coalitions and partnerships across the state. These brochures contain a series of questions that can help an individual determine if he or she is at risk.

In addition, working with the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the Department has collaborated with a Baltimore-area television station to raise awareness of the disease during its late afternoon programming on March 25. WMAR television will sponsor a "Call to Health" where 10 diabetes educators and other professionals will answer questions phoned in by viewers. Also, six, 60-second segments will feature interviews related to diabetes prevention and management.


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