Two-thirds of people with diabetes miss some critically important exams to manage the disease

Research Activities, January 2010, No. 353

Only a third of the 16.5 million Americans who reported that they had diabetes in 2007 had all three exams considered critical for managing their disease and preventing complications, according to the latest data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Agency researchers looked at how frequently adults with diabetes had a health professional check their blood-sugar levels, examine their eyes for diabetes-related damage, or evaluate their feet for poor circulation typical of the illness. According to the analysis:

  • Just 58 percent reported having had one or two of the exams, 3 percent had no exams, and 6 percent said they didn't know if they had any of these tests.
  • Privately insured adults aged 18 to 64 were twice as likely as adults who were uninsured to have all three tests (36 percent vs. 18 percent).
  • About 40 percent of elderly adults with diabetes, who had Medicare plus a secondary private insurance plan, had all three tests compared with 31.5 percent of those with Medicare only.
  • One-third of blacks with diabetes reported using insulin compared with 22.5 percent of whites and 21 percent of Hispanics. In contrast, Hispanics were more likely to take pills to control their diabetes compared with whites and blacks (84 percent vs. 77 percent).

These data were taken from AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, their cost, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Diabetes Management: Tests and Treatment among the Adult U.S. Civilian, Population, 2007.

AHRQ has a free, illustrated guide to help people with Type II diabetes who take oral medications compare their options for treatment based on medication benefits and risks. Another guide helps people who use insulin learn about their options and the differences between premixed and other types of insulin. To view these and other consumer guides based on the results of AHRQ's comparative effectiveness research, go to

Current as of January 2010
Internet Citation: Two-thirds of people with diabetes miss some critically important exams to manage the disease: Research Activities, January 2010, No. 353. January 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.