About one in 10 have diabetes now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the number could expand dramatically in the next 40 years if current trends continue.
According to a new report, the prevalence of diabetes is expected to rise sharply owing to an aging population, increases of type 2 diabetes among minority groups that are at high risk, and greater longevity for people living with diabetes.
The report predicts that the rate of new diabetes cases will increase annually, from 8 per 1,000 people in 2008, to 15 per 1,000 in 2050.
Depending upon how long diabetics live once they have developed the disease, the total diabetes prevalence (diagnosed and undiagnosed cases) among American adults in 2050 could range from 21 percent of adults (about 76 million) to 33 percent (100 million people).
The CDC says today about 24 million Americans have diabetes - and one-quarter of them do not know it.
The latest CDC projections were published in the journal Population Health Metrics.
Ann Albright, PhD, RD, Ann Albright, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, called the new figures "alarming," and said they showed how critical it is for people to improve their lifestyle choices on eating and physical activity.
According to the CDC, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in 2007. It is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults under age 75; kidney failure; and non-accident/injury leg and foot amputations among adults.
The total costs of diabetes, including direct medical costs, are an estimated $174 billion annually.
Proper diet and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing diabetes and help control the condition in diabetics.
The report says effective prevention programs directed at high-risk groups can reduce future increases in diabetes prevalence, but will not eliminate them.
The revised figures include better accounting for people who have diabetes but are undiagnosed.
Also, they used new population growth estimates for the elderly and minorities, who have higher rates of Type 2 diabetes.
For more info:
Projection of the Year 2050 Burden of Diabetes in the U.S. Adult Population - Population Health Metrics
Diabetes Projected to Double or Triple by 2050 - CDC Press Release
Diabetes Public Health Resource - CDC