Dealing with Diabetes among U.S. Veterans


Diabetes is a disease that affects the ability of the body to secrete or properly utilize insulin. Due to the deficiency of insulin, sugar is allowed to stay in the bloodstream; thereby, increasing the levels of blood sugar. Over time, the blood vessels and organs will be damaged by the high blood sugar levels.

When this happens, the affected person will start experiencing a wide range of symptoms including:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger

Unfortunately, this chronic disease doesn’t have any cure and its management also requires great attention from the patients and their medical teams.

Research on how diabetes affects veterans

Based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 10% of all Americans suffer from diabetes. However, the prevalence of the disease among U.S. veterans is higher than in the general population. It has been stated by that around 25% of all U.S. veterans are dealing with this health condition. Lots of these veterans developed the condition during their service in Vietnam where they were exposed to herbicides.

It is noteworthy that the majority of U.S. veterans suffer from Type 2 diabetes according to This type is associated with the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin that the body requires to prevent blood glucose levels from increasing. Other types of diabetes include Type 1 diabetes (often diagnosed in children) and gestational diabetes (which affects pregnant women without preexisting diabetes).

Today, numerous studies are going on concerning the burden of diabetes among U.S. veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is working all around the clock to proffer timely solutions to the challenges facing the veterans. Lots of VA researchers are using state-of-the-art technologies and strategies to enhance the outcomes of diseases for many veterans.

Group visits, peer counseling, online case management and education, and telemedicine are a few of the strategies they are using. These researchers are also looking for improved methods to prevent or manage diabetes, particularly among the elderly, minorities, people with heart or kidney disease, amputees, individuals with spinal cord problems, etc.

New developments and knowledge concerning diabetic veterans

Here are some new developments that may change the burden of diabetes among veterans:

  • Availability of CGM

The VA released new prescribing guidelines that  increased the availability of CGM to the U.S. veterans dealing with diabetes. Notably, CGM is a new tool that aids the management of diabetes. But this important development doesn’t necessarily solve the problem as many veterans are not aware that CGM could help their condition. Therefore, it is crucial to increase awareness about how CGM can assist diabetic veterans.

How can veterans gain from using CGM?

  • Timely and dependable monitoring of glucose levels
  • Reduction in the risk of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia
  • Access to comprehensive data about glucose trends of each patient
  • Poor health outcomes are associated with non-adherence to drugs

In 2018, a study was carried by scientists at the VA MidSouth Healthcare Network. Data of over 159,000 U.S. veterans were expertly analyzed to determine how non-adherence to diabetes drugs can affect health outcomes among veterans. The study showed that patients with poor adherence to their diabetes drugs were at higher risk of experiencing strokes and heart attacks. Therefore, if diabetic veterans can adhere to the use of their medications, they are bound to enjoy better health outcomes.

  • Support from family and friends can aid management of diabetes

The stress of sticking to care regimens, diabetes symptoms, and fear of complications usually lead to emotional distress for patients with diabetes. However, getting support from friends and family can play a key role in how patients control their condition.

Michigan’s VA Center for Clinical Management Support conducted a study in 2018. According to the results of the study, support from family and friends can alleviate the distress associated with diabetes. As a result of this, patients with support from their loved ones will likely manage their condition better than those without such support.

  • The development of a glucose telemetry system (GTS) for monitoring hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is one of the leading reasons for hospitalization of diabetics. It should be noted that hypoglycemia occurs when the bloodstream doesn’t have enough glucose.

The VA Medical Center in Baltimore manufactured a tool that can help to monitor the glucose level of diabetes. With the help of this tool, veterans can now keep an eye on their glucose levels; thereby, lowering the risks of hypoglycemia.

Veterans should take advantage of these developments to keep their conditions in check.


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