Trying to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in diabetes morbidity and mortality is already no small task. But closing the diabetes gap could become twice as challenging if a disturbing new phenomenon known as “double diabetes” continues to increase.

According to a recent report in HealthDay News, doctors are encountering a growing number of patients who have both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In other words, their bodies aren’t producing insulin (resulting in type 1 diabetes), plus they also have the type 2 profile of insulin resistance, obesity and hypertension. Also known as “hybrid diabetes,” the condition is on the rise in both adults and children. Recent studies suggest that as many as 30% of youngsters newly diagnosed with diabetes have both the type 1 and type 2 forms of the disease.

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What’s behind this troubling trend? Some physicians believe the national epidemic of overeating and obesity is partly to blame. Their theory: Type 1 diabetics who become overweight–because of insulin use, unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise or a combination of all three–will eventually also develop the insulin-resistant form of the disease. Patients with double diabetes will often present as type 2 diabetics because they are overweight. It takes a blood test to reveal that they have type 1 diabetes as well.

Whatever the cause, double diabetes is definitely too much of a bad thing. This new, more complex form of the disease not only means extra suffering and potential complications for patients, it is also harder to treat. Because the medications and treatment regimens for type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different, doctors must figure out the right combination of treatments for controlling both types of diabetes in the same patient.

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The good news is that diabetes can still be prevented by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. As the problem of double diabetes becomes more prevalent, the role nurses can play in helping patients change their lifestyles will become doubly important.
 

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