Severe Infections On the Rise Among Americans With Diabetes

The number of Americans with diabetes who wind up in hospitals with serious infections, or who develop them while in the hospital, is on the rise.

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of diabetics hospitalized for infections rose 52 percent (from 16 per 1,000 people to 24 per 1,000), according to researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“People with diabetes are more susceptible to in-hospital infections as compared with people without diabetes, and this risk is increasing,” said lead researcher Jessica Harding, from the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

“The most common infection types in people with and without diabetes were respiratory tract and skin infections,” Harding said. But the rates of infection were seven times higher in people with diabetes, she added.

The rise in overall infections is largely driven by increases in patients who develop sepsis while in the hospital, Harding said. “However, we also see in people with diabetes an increase in foot ulcers, coinciding with an increase in lower limb amputations,” she added.

Dr. Louis Philipson, director of the University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center, said it isn’t clear why diabetics develop more infections.

“We do not even have data as to whether the infections occurred in people with more poorly controlled diabetes, though that seems like a reasonable guess,” said Philipson, who is also president-elect for medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association.

High blood sugar decreases the activity of the immune system and can cause many changes in tissue, skin and blood flow, all of which can increase the risk of infections, Philipson said.

“Exactly which factors are most important here, and whether access to health care played a role, we do not know yet,” he added.

Urinary tract, skin and connective tissue infections are associated with high blood sugar levels and poorly controlled diabetes, Philipson explained. Preventing diabetes and reaching the optimum targets for blood sugar control are key to reducing infections.

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SOURCE: Steven Reinberg