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J Intern Med. 1993 Apr;233(4):321-6.

Diabetes education and insulin therapy: when will they ever learn?

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  • 1Medical Department for Metabolic Diseases and Nutrition (WHO-Collaborating Centre for Diabetes), Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf, Germany.


The Diabetes Education Study Group of the European Diabetes Association was founded in 1979 with its major goal to make effective patient training an integral part of any diabetes therapy. However, even today, in many places diabetes education is not an obligatory part of treatment, but is regarded as an optional service to the patient which is frequently fragmentary and haphazard. On the other hand, many physicians still subject their patients to rigid dietary instructions and obedience training, an approach which is mistaken for diabetes education. Several misconceptions about diabetes education keep counteracting the spread and hence the availability of effective treatment and teaching programmes for all Type 1 diabetic patients. One such misconception is that diabetes education could compensate for deficiencies of inappropriate insulin treatment regimens. Studies failing to demonstrate the impact of diabetes education on metabolic control, typically used an insulin treatment regimen with only one or two insulin injections per day, the predominant use of intermediate acting insulin preparations, and without (day-to-day) adjustment of insulin dosages by the patients themselves. A further reason for a lack of success of diabetes education is an unstructured approach which is frequently mistaken for individualized care. The deleterious effects of putting patients on intensified insulin therapy without offering them sufficient and systematic training have manifested themselves at various places by an excessive increase in the risk of severe hypoglycaemia, and of ketoacidosis during therapy with continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion. The effective and safe performance of insulin therapy requires both a rational system of insulin substitution and intensive training of the patients to carry it out. The injection of regular insulin before main meals and the use of intermediate or long-acting insulin preparations for the substitution of basal insulin requirements combined with daily metabolic self-monitoring and (day-to-day) adaptation of insulin dosages by the patients themselves allow a substantial improvement of glycaemic control without an increase in the risk of severe hypoglycaemia and the adoption of a more flexible life style largely freed from forcing and directive dietary and other impositions. Each diabetes centre should continuously evaluate the quality of care offered to their patients as a basis for a specific and systematic improvement of its treatment and education programmes. Such quality control measures must include a recording of the patients' degree of metabolic control and the frequencies of severe hypoglycaemia and ketoacidosis.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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