Volume 96, Issue 68
Thursday, January 30, 2003

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Diabetics prone to ailments

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

People with diabetes are more likely to acquire infectious diseases, according to a recent study.

Published last Friday in the journal Diabetes Care, the study found that people with diabetes are 15 to 20 per cent more likely than non-diabetics to acquire an infectious disease.

"We proceeded to do this study using data at the [Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences]," said Baiju Shah, one of the authors of the study and a doctor at ICES in Toronto.

The researchers compared 500,000 people with diabetes in Ontario and 500,000 people without the disease, he said. They found that 50 per cent of people with the disease had to visit a doctor or go to a hospital due to an infectious disease, Shah explained, adding, in contrast, only 35 per cent of people without diabetes had to do the same.

"People with diabetes are [up to] 20 per cent more likely to get infections," Shah added. "Our main message is that infections are a serious problem."

"What the study tells people with diabetes is – don't be a hero," said Alexis Mantell, a spokesperson for the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Those with the disease should move quickly to take care of themselves, she said. "It's that much more complicated because of the disease," Mantell added. As an example, she said the association encourages diabetics to get their flu shot as a preventative measure.

"We certainly knew people with diabetes have to take more care with their health," she said, adding people with the disease are more prone to infections of the skin, because of their higher glucose levels in the blood.

"We need to try and determine if better treatment will help lower these rates," Shah said.

"Diabetes is a serious disease," Mantell said, adding the more that can be done to prevent or manage the disease, the more that can be done to prevent [other diseases] in the future.

Andrew House, a nephrologist at London Health Sciences Centre, said that, while his focus in the diabetic field is a little narrower – specifically its effect on kidneys, he was not surprised by the findings of the study.

While diabetics account for only six per cent of the population in Ontario, they account for up to 70 per cent of all limb amputations, Mantell said.

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2002 THE GAZETTE