Impact of undiagnosed diabetes in Asia

The emerging situation of individuals living with the disease takes a toll on low to mid-income countries

The increasing number of younger people living with type2 diabetes is a challenging development in a number of regions worldwide. In 2040, 642 million individuals will become affected with diabetes, which is two thirds more than the current prevalence. Diabetes can go unnoticed for a long period of time and those affected are often unaware of the long-term damage. If not diagnosed, complications such as coronary artery and peripheral vascular disease, stroke, diabetic neuropathy, amputations, renal failure and blindness can result, bringing about increased disability, reduced. Less developed regions in particular are seeing the greatest increases and facing the greatest consequences of the diabetes burden.


Every six seconds a person dies from diabetes


There are approximately 175 million cases of undiagnosed individuals living with diabetes worldwide, with more than 80 percent of these in low to middle income countries. There is no doubt that diabetes will become a major threat to the population in these regions, as there is no well-established access to healthcare. The Western Pacific region has more diabetics than any other region worldwide. A diabetes epidemic is particularly visible in Southeast Asia, accounting for roughly 20 percent of all cases worldwide. However, less than one percent of the global expenditure on diabetes is spent in this region.


Asia has highest rate of people living with diabetes


The three most populous countries – China, India and the U.S. – have the highest rates of people living with diabetes. However, it is the Asian countries that suffer from a lack of resources to properly diagnose, monitor and treat the disease. The International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) claims that the growth of diabetes by 55 percent by 2040 will afflict developing regions the most, as 80 percent of individuals living with diabetes are from low- and middle-income countries. In South-East Asia alone, more than 78.3 million individuals are living with diabetes today.1

Diabetes World Map

Fig.1: Prevalence of diabetes worldwide (Source: IDF Diabetes Atlas seventh edition 2015)


Diagnosing diabetes without needing to fast


A simple laboratory or point-of-care blood test can easily identify the average value of blood sugar concentration and the onset of the disease. The Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) blood test works as an easy-to-use method for healthcare professionals to help diagnose individuals with diabetes. HbA1c refers to glycated hemoglobin, which reflects the average plasma glucose concentration over the previous three to four months. For decades, identifying people with diabetes has been done either by measuring the value of fasting plasma blood glucose (FPG) or by evaluating a two-hour blood glucose concentration test with an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). This was a time-consuming and inconvenient procedure that wasted resources and slowed down workflows in hospitals and doctors’ offices. In comparison, measuring HbA1c is less affected by day-to-day variation of blood glucose levels because it always reflects the average blood glucose level of the last 90 to 120 days. This works perfectly for fast and targeted identification when it comes to the onset of a chronic disease such as diabetes. Roche was the company that delivered a first-globally available HbA1c test for diagnosing the disease.


Convenient tool for large population risk identification


Hyperglycemia is a prerequisite for diagnosing diabetes, and HbA1c testing is an easy and reliable method for healthcare professionals to identify hyperglycemia. Especially suitable for large population screenings, this test can help quickly and accurately assess the condition of individuals at risk. This has particular relevance for less developed countries, where HbA1c testing can be used for early intervention in people with undiagnosed diabetes. Results from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) and United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) demonstrated that HbA1c testing works as a fundamental diagnostic tool for managing patients with diabetes, as intensive glycemic control significantly reduces the risk of long-term complications. And Roche was the first company that delivered a first-globally available test for diagnosing and monitoring the disease.2


Education is key


Education about diabetes is said to be the central point of care. It has been shown that informing healthcare professionals and people at risk has become a very effective strategy in developed regions. Doctors in particular play a pivotal role in helping to improve local access to healthcare. In one survey of healthcare workers, only 32 percent of those from low and middle income countries claimed to have been educated in the field of diabetes. For this reason, it is essential that healthcare professionals are able to ensure and widen their knowledge and competence when it comes to the disease.




  1. International Diabetes Federation (IDF). IDF Atlas Seventh Edition, 2015. Belgium.