Aim. This paper is a report of a literature review to explore the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use amongst people with diabetes to inform nursing practice, education and research.
Background. Diabetes mellitus affects the entirety of a person's being and increasingly people use complementary and alternative medicine in conjunction with other medical treatments and lifestyle modifications to manage their condition and improve well-being.
Methods. The CINAHL, Medline, ProQuest nursing journals and Psych INFO databases were searched for the period 1990–2006 using identified keywords.
Results. A total of 18 studies from nine countries were found. The results suggest that the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use among people with diabetes ranges from 17% to 72·8%. The most widely used therapies among diabetic populations are nutritional supplements, herbal medicines, nutritional advice, spiritual healing and relaxation techniques. The characteristics which influence complementary and alternative medicine use are age, duration of diabetes, degree of complications and self-monitoring of blood glucose.
Conclusion. Although inconsistency in the definition of complementary and alternative medicine and varying research designs make estimation of usage prevalence difficult, evidence suggests that a high proportion of people with diabetes use these therapies concurrently with conventional healthcare services. Healthcare professionals need to be aware of this issue and may need to incorporate complementary and alternative medicine information into patient assessment and intervention.