Highlights of VA research on Diabetes
November 4, 2020
VA Research Spotlight is a monthly roundup of research news on topics affecting Veterans' health. This month, in honor of
National Diabetes Month, our focus is on research that examines the impact of diabetes in Veterans.
Diabetes affects nearly 25 percent of Veterans who seek care from VA. For these people, it is the leading cause of blindness, end-stage renal disease, and amputation. VA researchers are studying innovative strategies to improve the lives of Veterans who have diabetes. Innovations in care include group visits, telemedicine, peer counseling, and Internet-based education and case management. Researchers are also working to develop better ways to prevent or treat diabetes, particularly in special populations such as the elderly and patients with spinal cord injury.
VA Research Currents
Study: Patient data can predict life expectancy for older adults with diabetes A new study finds that clinicians can use patient data, such as a history of co-occurring health conditions and medication, to predict the 5- and 10-year life expectancy of older people with diabetes.... (06/19/2020)
'I'm battling an encyclopedia' VA researchers examined the beliefs and perceptions Veterans with diabetes hold about communicating with their physicians. Some complained their doctors use too much jargon.... (05/07/2020)
Study suggests a more accurate approach to diabetes diagnosis Using HbA1c (hemoglobin A1c) levels alone can lead to over- and under-diagnosis of diabetes, says a VA research team. They say oral glucose tests should be used along with HbA1c to ensure a proper diagnosis.... (02/12/2020)
Oral diabetes drug linked to lower odds of colon cancer A new study has linked the widely used oral diabetes drug metformin to lower odds of colorectal cancer. The study involved a large sample of VA patients with diabetes who had a colonoscopy.... (12/10/2019)
Routine blood tests could predict future diabetes Researchers from three VA health care systems showed that elevated blood glucose levels detected in routine outpatient tests, though well below diagnostic thresholds, predicted diabetes diagnoses within five years. ... (07/19/2019)
VA Research in Action
A skin monitor for hard-to-view body locations Researchers at the Minneapolis VA have developed a device called SkinSyte that helps people monitor their skin in parts of the body that are difficult to see, such as their backsides and the bottoms of their feet.
Diabetes drug from Gila monster venom VA researchers discovered a new diabetes drug from an unusual source: the Gila monster, a large lizard native to the southwestern U.S. A hormone in the lizard’s venom stimulates insulin production. A drug based on the discovery is now used by more than 2 million people worldwide.
VA Research News Briefs
Risk factors for lower-limb re-amputation
VA Puget Sound researchers identified risk factors that led to further lower-limb amputation in Veterans. The study included more than 7,000 VA patients who had an amputation because of diabetes or peripheral artery disease. Re-amputation included removing tissue and bone near the amputation site or amputation higher on the leg, and might become necessary because of improper healing. Re-amputation was highest (41%) in patients who had part of the foot removed. About 25% of amputations at the tibia and 9% at the femur required re-amputation. Risks for re-amputation included chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, reduced blood flow, and alcohol misuse. Different levels of amputation carried different risk factors. The results will help surgeons and patients make decisions on amputation level, according to the researchers. ( , Aug. 12, 2020) European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery
Lower weight, diabetes increase risk of death from pulmonary hypertension
Lower weight and diabetes are risk factors for death in patients with pulmonary hypertension, found an Atlanta VA study. Pulmonary hypertension refers to high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs and heart. Researchers looked at data on more than 110,000 Veterans diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. Diabetes increased patients’ risk of death by 28% to 33%. Surprisingly, higher body mass index was linked to lower mortality. Underweight and normal weight patients were at higher risk of death than those who were overweight or obese. The results underscore the need for more research on how metabolic factors affect pulmonary hypertension, say the researchers. ( , Aug. 15, 2020) American Journal of Cardiology
Racial/ethnic disparities exist in diabetes control
Disparities in diabetes control based on race and ethnicity exist across the country, found a study of VA patients. Researchers looked at data on more than a million VA patients with diabetes. They found that the percentage of patients with uncontrolled diabetes varied by location, ranging from 19% to 29%. Hispanic patients and non-Hispanic Black patients were more likely to have uncontrolled diabetes, compared with non-Hispanic white patients. The disparity was consistent across most geographic areas. The results highlight areas that need to be addressed in diabetes care, say the researchers. ( , Aug. 7, 2020) Diabetes Care
Secure messaging from clinicians improves diabetes patient self-management
Diabetes patients who received online messaging support from their clinicians better self-managed their care, in a study by researchers at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Massachusetts. Secure messaging over the internet allows doctors and patients to communicate in between visits. The study included more than 400 Veterans with diabetes who used VA’s My HealtheVet online patient portal. Patients who received at least one proactive message about their care were more likely to engage in better diabetes self-management, compared to patients who were not messaged. They also reported a higher sense of self-confidence. Proactive communication from clinical teams can foster a patient’s sense of autonomy and encourage better self-care, conclude the researchers. ( , May 21, 2020) Journal of General Internal Medicine
View more VA Research News Briefs