TUESDAY, July 23 (HealthScoutNews) — People with diabetes who have trouble reading appear almost twice as likely to have poorly controlled blood sugar and serous long-term complications than diabetics ( news – web sites) who have no difficulty reading. A new study, published in tomorrow’s Journal of the American Medical Association ( news – web sites), is the first to show low literacy can cause health problems for people with a chronic medical condition. “Having diabetes and difficulty reading creates a double bind. Diabetes patients rely on a number of tools to manage their disease and prevent serious health problems.
For patients with low literacy, it’s as though they have received the toolkit, but not the operating instructions,” says study author Dr. Dean Schillinger, an assistant professor of medicine at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center. “Because our health system expects patients to be able to read at a very high level, we may be leaving a lot of patients in the dark,” Schillinger adds in a prepared statement. The study included 408 people with Type II diabetes, which affects more than 16 million Americans, including 18 percent of all people aged 65 and older.
The study found that 36 percent of the study participants with inadequate health literacy had diabetic retinopathy, compared to 19 percent of the people with adequate health literacy. Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that can be a precursor to blindness. Optimal blood sugar control can prevent retinopathy. The study found 20 percent of the people with inadequate health literacy had optimal blood sugar control, compared to 33 percent of the people with higher health literacy.
The findings were similar for other diabetes complications, such as kidney disease, amputation and heart disease, according to the study.