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Release: Nov. 22, 1999

UI offers free diabetes screenings

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Diabetes affects more than 16 million Americans, yet one-third are unaware that they have the condition. Nearly 20 million other individuals have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), which can lead to diabetes. However, area residents with one or more diabetes risk factors can take advantage of a new University of Iowa Health Care service that offers free screenings for the disease and its potential precursor, IGT.

The clinic is open Monday through Friday mornings at the UI Hospital and Clinics. People with risk factors can schedule a screening by calling UI Health Access at 384-8442 or

1-800-777-8442. Risk factors include being overweight; having a family member with diabetes; having diabetes during a pregnancy or a baby who weighed more than nine pounds at birth; having known high blood pressure or high cholesterol; and being of native American, African American or Hispanic descent.

The screening includes fasting blood sugar and cholesterol tests. Diabetes testing is not usually part of a regular physical exam, said Rhonda Barr, a UI physical therapist who helps create diabetes intervention and management programs.

"People may not have symptoms of diabetes, but it's important to be tested for the disease instead of waiting for signs," Barr said. "We strongly encourage those with risk factors to sign up for a screening."

Robert S. Bar, M.D., UI professor of internal medicine and division director of endocrinology-metabolism, emphasized that early intervention can prevent or delay diabetes.

"People with impaired glucose tolerance have high blood sugar, but not high enough to diagnose diabetes," Bar said. "However, people with the condition have a 50 percent chance of developing diabetes within 10 years. Anything we can do to make people more aware of their health and help delay or prevent the onset of diabetes is very important."

Bar directs the Veterans Affairs / Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Research Center, and the National Institutes of Health Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center at the UI. He is also a staff physician and researcher at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City.

Bar noted that diabetes can often be controlled through medication, diet and exercise. If the disease goes untreated or is inadequately controlled, many people experience complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and infections.

Americans are at increased risk for diabetes due to widespread inactivity and weight gain. A 1998 report by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases showed that diabetes rates for men and women are about the same. However, the rates for non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican-Americans were respectively 1.6 and 1.9 times the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.