More and more people over 65 years old are being diagnosed with diabetes, and the rate of serious complications of the disease such as kidney failure, blindness and amputation are not declining and in some cases, these complications are actually increasing, Dr. Frank A. Sloan and colleagues from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina found.
Meanwhile, people with diabetes are living longer, further increasing the "burden of care," they write in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Sloan and his team determined whether the outcomes of elderly diabetics have improved at all over the past decade. They looked at data for more than 33,000 people diagnosed with diabetes in 1994, nearly 32,000 diagnosed in 1999, and more than 40,000 diagnosed in 2003, comparing them with two "control" groups of people without diabetes.
Between 1994-1995 and 2003-2004, the incidence - the number of people diagnosed with diabetes for the first time -- rose by 23 percent, while the prevalence - the total number of people in the population with the condition -- rose 62 percent.
While mortality rates fell by about 8 percent among people with diabetes, the rate of serious diabetes complications held steady or increased. Overall, nearly 90 percent of elderly people with diabetes had some type of adverse outcome.
In a commentary accompanying the study, Dr. Frank Vinicor of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta calls for the implementation of programs to prevent type 2 diabetes. "We know they can work in controlled settings, so the evidence is already there. The real challenge is to translate the study results successfully throughout the world."