At the diabetes clinic at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, business is unfortunately booming. And the same is true at other clinics. Diabetes is on the increase, with 4,000 new cases diagnosed nationwide every day.
"There's no reason whatsoever at this point to think that we've reached the limit of this epidemic," said Vanderbilt's Dr. William Russell.
According to report released today and funded by the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is costing Americans $174 billion a year. That's an increase of 32 percent since 2002. Medical expenditures have reached $116 billion, and the reduced productivity of the nation is a staggering $58 billion.
Ann Albright, president of the American Diabetes Association, said, "I think the significance of these numbers is demonstrating the immense toll that diabetes is taking on this country."
Diabetes is not as costly as cardiovascular disease or cancer, but deaths from those killers have decreased, while diabetes deaths have jumped 45 percent in the past two decades.
The biggest problem is type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to increased American obesity among both children and adults.
And although patients and doctors are learning to better manage the disease, diabetes can be devastating.
Dr. David Nathan, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center, said, "Diabetes is currently the greatest cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations and a tremendous contributor to heart attacks and strokes."
The government now spends about $1 billion on diabetes research and $64 million on public health efforts. Schools offer programs on exercise and better nutrition.
And today a new study found that weight loss surgery, which involves placing a band around the stomach to reduce its size and reduce appetite, appears to be extremely successful in some patients. The study found that of the obese patients who had the surgery, nearly two-thirds saw all signs of their diabetes disappear.
But Dr. Arthur Frank, the medical director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program, sounded a note of caution.
"Surgery does not cure obesity. Surgery doesn't cure diabetes. It gets you down to a baseline, and you still have to struggle with it. The idea that surgery is a resolution of the problem, no. It just creates a different way of managing the problem," Frank said.
It's a problem that claims more than 200,000 lives a year. Those working to combat the disease hope the new numbers on the staggering cost of the illness will help in the fight to get more resources for research and prevention.