According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 9.3 percent of the American population has diabetes — that’s nearly 30 million people. An estimated one in three of those cases are undiagnosed. That means that odds are, either you or someone you know has diabetes, whether they know it or not.
But as common as it may be, diabetes is a very serious condition. November is American Diabetes Month — here’s what you need to know about this common disease.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes can be broken down into three types: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational.
Type 1 diabetes: Accounts for just five percent of the diabetic population. Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and young adults. In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin and therefore requires that the person take insulin. The body needs insulin in order to break down the foods and drinks we eat into a simple sugar called glucose, which is then used to produce energy.
Type 2 diabetes: The most common form of diabetes and the result of higher-than-normal glucose levels, which is called hyperglycemia. At first, the body makes more insulin to combat the higher blood glucose. Over time, however, the body can't make enough insulin to maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
Gestational diabetes: This form of diabetes occurs during pregnancy, usually showing up around the 24th week. It often exhibits no symptoms except for elevated fasting blood glucose levels, which are discovered during a routine fasting test for OB patients. Gestational diabetes occurs in women who haven’t had diabetes before but who have high blood glucose during pregnancy. The exact cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, but it is known that hormones from the placenta block insulin from working in the mother's body.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
While the symptoms of diabetes can be very subtle and easy to ignore, some of the common symptoms of the disease include:
- Urinating often
- Feeling very thirsty and/or hungry
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Unexplained weight loss (Type 1)
- Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands/feet (Type 2)
Why is diabetes diagnosis important?
When left untreated, diabetes can cause a number of health complications. Early detection and treatment of diabetes can reduce your risk of developing various complications, such as cardiovascular disease that results in heart attacks, strokes and hypertension; blindness due to diabetic retinopathy; kidney disease; neuropathy; and amputations resulting from bone infections and/or non-healing diabetic wounds, just to name a few.
A diagnosis of “prediabetes” can be made if an individual has blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to diagnose diabetes. Healthy lifestyle changes that include weight loss and increased physical activity can help delay or decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Without these lifestyle changes, 15 to 30 percent of people go on to develop type 2 diabetes in 5 years.
How is diabetes treated?
Treatment of diabetes involves meal planning, physical activity, regular blood glucose testing and treatment with either insulin or an oral medication. Type 1 diabetes is always treated with insulin because the body doesn’t make insulin at all. The first treatment for type 2 diabetes is a healthy meal plan, weight loss, exercise, and often diabetes medications.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, contact the Diabetes Education program at Goshen Hospital to learn how to live a healthy life with diabetes. Call us today at (574) 364-2746.