Almost 8 million Americans have diabetes but don't know it, a new study shows.
That's despite the fact that about two-thirds of those with undiagnosed diabetes have seen a doctor two or more times in the past year, according to the researchers.
The study also found that among those who were diagnosed with diabetes, only about one-quarter met three important goals for people with diabetes: managing blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
"Out of 28.4 million people with diabetes, more than a quarter don't know [it]," said study author Dr. Mohammed Ali, an assistant professor of public health at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
"About 80 percent of those people are linked to a health care provider, and two-thirds are seeing them twice a year or more. So, through whatever means, they aren't being identified with diabetes," Ali explained.
The data used in this study wasn't broken down by diabetes type, but Ali said the vast majority of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. And the onset of type 2 diabetes tends to be less obvious, so he believes most of the undiagnosed people are likely people with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a disorder that causes the body to use the hormone insulin inefficiently, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). This is called insulin resistance. The body uses insulin to help process the sugar from food into fuel for the body's cells. When cells become insulin-resistant, sugar can't move into the cells and instead, stays in the bloodstream, raising blood sugar levels, according to the ADA.
The study also found that among those who were diagnosed, there was room for improvement in their care. Just 64 percent of those diagnosed were meeting their blood sugar goals. About 66 percent had controlled blood pressure (under 140/80 mm Hg), according to the study. And, only 57 percent were meeting the goal of getting their LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) under 100 mg/dL, the researchers found.