The World Health Organization estimates 180 million people have diabetes and that number could double by the year 2030. The most prevalent form of the disease is often associated with obesity and lack of exercise. VOA's Melinda Smith has more on the financial and human costs of treating diabetes as it escalates in the United States and around the world.
The American Diabetes Association reports that as many as 21 million Americans have the disease caused by the body's inability to process insulin -- a hormone that regulates blood sugar. The association also says another six million may have it, but are still undiagnosed. It is a disease that can strike at any age, even among children.
Diabetes specialist William Russell of Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee says 4,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in the U.S. every day. "There's no reason whatsoever at this point to think that we've reached the limit of this epidemic."
Patients diagnosed with Type One diabetes fail to make enough insulin on their own and must inject it daily.
Type Two diabetes -- the most common form -- occurs when the body fails to process insulin efficiently. Without insulin, the body cannot process sugar, which can damage blood vessels.
Because diabetes is a chronic disease, medical experts say the physical and financial toll it takes can be enormous. Diabetes contributes to blindness, kidney failure, amputation of the feet, heart disease and stroke. All of these require ongoing treatment which can be expensive.
The American Diabetes Association reports medical costs from complications of diabetes have spiraled to $116 billion in the U.S.
"The significance of these numbers is really demonstrating the immense toll that diabetes is taking on this country," says Ann Albright, who is the American Diabetes Association's president.
In China, the World Health Organization estimates that medical care and lost worker productivity from diabetes, heart disease and stroke will mount to more than $500 billion by the year 2015.
Medical experts say diabetes can be controlled by getting a blood test, maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active each day. They also recommend that people stop smoking and cut down on the amount of caffeine in their diet.
A new study by Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina says that four cups of coffee each day boosts the blood sugar levels by eight percent.