A new study indicates that the failure to diagnose and treat diabetes is a global problem in countries rich and poor, putting millions of lives at risk.
The study used data from seven national surveys in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas.
"In most of the seven countries, a large proportion of individuals with diabetes go undiagnosed," says Emmanuela Gakidou of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, who led the study.
She says that in countries from Thailand and Iran to Britain and the United States, diabetic adults are not being adequately treated to bring their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol under control.
"People that actually enter the health care system and they get diagnosed with diabetes, most of them are actually not getting the appropriate treatment for all the conditions that could affect their health," she says.
According to Gakidou, the study found no link between wealth or socioeconomic status and the likelihood of being diagnosed or treated.
"What we did find in the U.S., in Colombia, and in Mexico, where we had data, however, was that health insurance is correlated with the probability of diagnosis and the probability of being effectively treated."
Managing diabetic patients is complicated. For example, the authors note that in most countries surveyed, many patients took medicine to lower blood pressure, but not enough to really bring blood pressure under control. The authors suggest several possible ways to improve the care of diabetics, including improved monitoring of blood sugar and providing incentives to patients who meet treatment targets.