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Diabetes mellitus, and in particular type 2 diabetes, is becoming an affliction of global proportion. In 2006, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) already referred to the issue as “THE epidemic of the 21st century”[1]. Unfortunately, this prediction has turned out to be virtually on point. Global figures are increasing at an unexpectedly rapid rate with estimations being repeatedly revised upwards:

The current situation in Germany

According to the Deutsche Diabetes Hilfe, a charitable diabetes organisation in Germany, there are currently around 7 million diabetes patients in Germany. Of those patients, 6.9 million suffer from type 2 diabetes. Every year, more than 500,000 cases of diabetes are diagnosed in Germany, which corresponds to approx. 1,500 diagnoses per day[2]. The estimated number of people who have not yet been diagnosed is judged to be high. The average age of diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients is currently 61 years for men and 63 years for women. As it stands, the German healthcare system spends 1 in every 10 euros on direct medical costs for type 2 diabetes patients. In total, that works out to 16.1 billion euros spent on diabetes-related costs.

Increasing number of diabetes cases

The growth rate of diabetes cases is a serious cause for concern having increased by 38 % since 1998, or 24 % when adjusted for age. Demographic change can therefore not be identified as the sole culprit here.

Estimations published by health insurance providers paint a similarly dramatic picture. According to their data, the overall population’s share of diabetes patients increased from 5.9 % in 1989 to 8.9 % in 2007, with the main increase being the number of new type 2 diabetes diagnoses.

A quick glance at the global situation

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently around 60 million diabetes patients in Europe. That figure corresponds to almost 10 % of the population over the age of 25. Global estimates put the number of diabetes patients at 425 million worldwide. And according to the current forecast, this number will rise to 642 million by the year 2040.

Continued growth of number of diabetes cases

The number of diabetes cases is increasing across all age groups. However, older people are more likely to develop the disease. In Germany, the likelihood that somebody over the age of 80 has already developed type 2 diabetes is at 25 %. The growth of these case numbers is considered comparable to an uncontrolled epidemic. And the risk factors for diabetes, such as weight, a bad diet and inactivity, are also becoming more and more prevalent.

Subpar treatment outcomes mean more suffering

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that often requires a lifetime of treatment. For type 2 diabetes patients, treatment can consist of life style changes: losing weight, a balanced diet and physical fitness. However, these changes are not always sufficient or implemented to the required extent. In many cases drug treatment subsequently becomes a necessity. While this is a tried and tested approach, approx. 50 % of patients still do not achieve their treatment goals. This can lead to a variety of consequences. On the one hand, the patients suffer from the direct effects of this chronic metabolic disease that can severely impact their general well-being. On the other hand, the risk of developing one of the many secondary diseases, such as strokes, kidney damage, amputations or loss of sight, also increases. The ability to properly manage diabetes mellitus, i.e. to achieve the personal treatment goal, helps to significantly reduce these risks.

Current and future challenges

The majority of diabetes patients independently manage their own treatment on a day-to-day basis. They measure their blood glucose level, calculate the necessary insulin dose and administer their own injections. And to top it all off, they have to document all these values – up to six times a day. This is the only way for doctors and diabetologists to keep track of their patients’ daily treatment  and potentially adapt the measures using the relevant blood values. The more incomplete or inaccurate this information, the more difficult for doctors to react appropriately. If patients forget to enter their values, transpose digits, use wrong units or remember the data incorrectly they will be faced with an abundance of erroneous information. Much worse, and unfortunately not uncommon is if patients entirely forget to document their values. Active and successful management of the disease is paramount for the physical and mental health of each and every diabetes patient. Faced with the impending diabetes pandemic, this aspect is increasing in importance – especially if we want to avoid a pandemic of secondary diseases and unnecessary suffering.

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[1] https://healthcare-in-europe.com/en/news/the-epidemic-of-the-21st-century.html

[2] Deutsche Diabetes Hilfe – https://www.diabetesde.org/ueber_diabetes/was_ist_diabetes_/diabetes_in_zahlen