Diabetes is a silent disease, often delaying proper diagnosis

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Jaya Prakash found out he had diabetes when he was being treated for heart disease.

“You always think that it’s not going to happen to you,” he said.

There are more than 30 million U.S. adults living with diabetes but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in four don’t know they have it.

“The delay in diagnoses is the biggest problem,” said Dr. Meena Murthy, director of Thyroid and Diabetes Center at St. Peter’s University Hospital.

According to data from the New Jersey Department of Health, about 640,000 adults were living with diabetes in 2016.

Murthy says they wouldn’t know for years because diabetes is a silent disease that doesn’t always show symptoms.

“Diabetes is a global emergency because it is happening and the prevalence is expected to increase and we have to do something about it because it is a completely preventable disease in many people,” Murthy said. “We’re now taking about Type 2 diabetes, which most of this country has, then in those people the underlying fat storage is the problem.”

Murthy says major modifiable factors are diet and exercise.

“When I came to this country in 1980, the obesity prevalence was less than 10 percent. Now, it is over 35 percent,” she said.

The CDC says the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has already more than tripled in the last 20 years. Murthy says early screening and early intervention are essential.

“The major top five chronic diseases that either cause disability and death, and diabetes is a common risk factor to all of that,” she said.

Diabetes is also the number one cause of lower limb amputation, adult onset blindness and kidney failure, according to the CDC. Murthy says young girls with premature puberty, teenagers with irregular menstrual cycles, and women with fertility issues may be on the pathway to diabetes.

“During the pregnancy they develop gestational diabetes. And all of these things program the next generation. And in men the way it affects is they have erectile dysfunction because the nerves don’t work with uncontrolled diabetes. All of these can be prevented,” Murty said.