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August 18, 2003

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Question from Bronx, New York, USA:

I'm confused, and I would like you to help me out. simple question -- Is diabetes a chronic disease? I ask this because some people say it is not a chronic disease, because it is treatable. But -- I think it is chronic, and other people say it is because it is a long-term disease, and it has no cure. Please would you tell me if it is one or the other and why? I'm really confused!

Answer:

I don’t know if there is any formal “definition”, but I would certainly consider diabetes a chronic condition as it can’t be cured, although as you say it can be controlled. I also have difficulty calling it a “disease” as I think of a “disease” as a condition that makes you feel sick. When controlled, people with diabetes do not feel sick, as you say. I think technically it is probably still a chronic disease even when well controlled. You might feel more comfortable referring to it as a “chronic condition” rather than a “chronic disease.” Let’s hope soon we will have a cure and won’t have to worry about whether or not to call it a “disease.”

TGL