Diabetes: Get the facts to live well
The American Diabetes Association estimates that of the nearly 24 million people in the United States living with diabetes, one in four is unaware they have the disease. It’s also one of the leading causes of chronic health complications in the nation. For this reason, getting the facts on diabetes could improve the health of nearly eight percent of the population.
“Diabetes is a common condition that can go undiagnosed until serious complications start to occur,” explains Amanda Denney Queen, M.D., endocrinologist with The Christ Hospital Diabetes and Endocrine Center. “If you can diagnose it and treat it early, the outcomes are greatly improved.”
Not a one-size-fits-all condition
Diabetes is a disease that leads to higher than normal blood sugar. It is caused by the body’s inability to either produce or use insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that aids the body in converting sugar to energy. People with diabetes can experience complications when blood sugar levels are too low to fuel the body’s cells (hypoglycemia), or when there is too much sugar in the blood (hyperglycemia).
There are three common types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition diagnosed in children and young adults. In type 1, the body does not produce insulin, and therefore cannot break down sugars into energy. About five to 10 percent of people living with diabetes have type 1.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for as many as 95 percent of all diabetes cases in the United States. With type 2, the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore it. When this occurs, sugar builds up in the cells and damages the blood vessels. Type 2 occurs more frequently in adults over the age of 45. Although some people are genetically predisposed to the condition, poor lifestyle habits (diet and physical activity) can also trigger it.
- Gestational diabetes occurs in women who are pregnant. This is sometimes an indicator that they could become diabetic following pregnancy or further into adulthood. Its presentation is similar to that of type 2 diabetes. Women who have gestational diabetes should seek medical attention to monitor their diabetes and health and their unborn child’s health and weight.
Pre-diabetes can lead to Type 2 diabetes and further health complications if not managed appropriately. It occurs when the body does not properly respond to insulin – a condition known as insulin resistance. Normal fasting blood sugar levels are below 100. People with pre-diabetes have fasting sugar levels between 100 and 125; and people with diabetes have levels at 126 or higher.
Another way to assess the risk for diabetes is with a hemoglobin A1C screen, which is a two to three month measure of overall sugar control. People with pre-diabetes or those at greater risk for developing diabetes should have this checked periodically. Ask your doctor if this is appropriate for you.
Is it diabetes?
Unfortunately, diabetes commonly goes undiagnosed because the symptoms may not always seem serious. “Symptoms for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar, with subtle differences,” Dr. Queen says. “It’s important to screen people for diabetes, especially those who are at risk or present with these symptoms.” Symptoms of each type include:
Unexplained weight loss
Fatigue and irritability
All of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes
Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
Living with diabetes
Diabetes is best controlled with a combination of medication and lifestyle modifications. “People with diabetes have to think about the condition every day,” Dr. Queen says. “They have to know what to do to keep blood sugar levels in control. It’s why diabetes education is so important.”
Diabetes is a progressive disease, or a disease that generally gets worse over time. Monitoring blood glucose levels on a daily basis is a crucial part of managing the disease. “People with Type 1 diabetes need ongoing insulin therapy to treat their disease,” Dr. Queen says. ”People with Type 2 diabetes need lifestyle changes to help the body’s insulin work better. And, medicines, including insulin, will often need to be added to maintain sugar control over time.” Good control of diabetes is important to help prevent complications.”
“Our goal at The Christ Hospital Diabetes and Endocrine Center is to help prevent diabetes complications by educating and providing tools to patients to stay healthy,” says Dr. Queen. “We give them the skills to manage their diabetes.” The Christ Hospital has diabetes educators, free diabetes support groups and nutrition and weight management services available to patients and their families.
Think you or a loved one might have diabetes? Find a physician with The Christ Hospital Diabetes and Endocrine Center by calling 877-904-4YOU or visit www.TheChristHospital.com.