Introduction: Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) are defined as a group of diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices and products, not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. It has been estimated, around 24% of Australians regularly use CAM as treatment for a wide range of chronic conditions. Only a limited number of studies have examined the use of CAM amongst diabetes patients in Australia. This study aimed to further elucidate the demographic and diabetes characteristics of diabetes patients who use CAM.
Methods: A prospective, cross-sectional questionnaire-based study was conducted in 149 patients with diabetes attending a general endocrine clinic in a tertiary referral hospital in Sydney, Australia.
Results: There was a mean age of 62.8 years, 53% were male and 69% were from non-Australian backgrounds. Thirty-seven patients (25%) stated they had used CAM therapies within the past five years. Vitamins (53%) were the most common CAM therapy used, with prayer (44%) also used by a large number of patients. A smaller number of patients used Chinese medicine (14%), Tai Chi (14%), and herbal therapy (11%). A greater number of CAM nonusers reported calf pain whilst walking (21% vs. 9%, p=0.051), and HbA1c values were lower for CAM nonusers (7.7% vs. 8.1%, p=0.057). There were no significant differences in the rates of microvascular complications, number of years diagnosed, insulin therapy and number of diabetes medications. Amongst CAM users, a majority of patients (85%) did not consult with their specialist or general practitioner prior to starting CAM therapy, with the specialist or general practitioner also not aware of CAM use by most patients (55%).
Conclusions: With the increasing burden of diabetes, health practitioners will need to be more vigilant and understanding of the potential impact of CAM use to optimise management, achieve good glycaemic control and prevent diabetic complications.