Facts About Diabetes: We’re Not Going to Sugar-Coat It
By: Tessa Gilliland
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. It’s a month where communities across the nation gather together to inform the public about diabetes and the impacts associated with the condition. Currently, there is not a cure for diabetes, but it is proven that living a healthy lifestyle can reduce its impact.
There are different types of diabetes and the causes vary based on each type. Regardless of the type, diabetes leads to extra sugar, or glucose, in the body. Having too much glucose in the bloodstream for extended periods of time can lead to health problems.
WHAT IS IT?
Diabetes is a disease where the body does not properly process food for its correct purpose – to give us energy. The food we eat gets turned into glucose, more commonly known as sugar, which our bodies then convert into energy. Next, the pancreas creates insulin, which is a hormone that helps glucose absorb into our bones. Glucose is a crucial sugar. It brings energy to the cells in our tissues and muscles and fuels our brains. Glucose build up occurs when the body does not produce insulin correctly, or as well as it should (Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation). When our bodies are unable to properly make insulin, it can create other health complications down the road, such as: heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, lower-extremity amputations and even death.
TYPES OF DIABETES
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is also known as Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes. Type 2 diabetes refers to Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes (Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation).
Type 1 diabetes only makes up about five to ten percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Risk factors for developing type 1 diabetes are not as well detailed as type 2, but some risk factors include genetics or exposures to viruses.
Type 2 diabetes makes up 90 to 95 percent of all documented cases of diabetes. Some risk factors for type 2 diabetes are older age (typically 45 years old and older), obesity, history of diabetes in the family, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity (Center for Disease and Control). African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives and some Pacific Islanders/Asian Americans are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
There is a third type of diabetes, gestational diabetes. It is not as common or as well known. Only pregnant women can develop gestational diabetes. It develops in two to five percent of pregnancies. Typically, it goes away after the baby is born, but it increases the woman’s chance of developing type 2 later in life. It also increases the likelihood of the child becoming obese as a child or teen, also increasing their chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Some risk factors to look out for are having gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy or having given birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds. If the mother is overweight, older than 25 years old or if there is a family history of type 2 diabetes, she may have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. Having a hormone disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome can also indicate the development of gestational diabetes. It is more likely for African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, or Alaskan Natives, and some Pacific Islanders/Asian Americans to develop gestational diabetes while pregnant (Center for Disease and Control).
Aside from type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes, there is also prediabetes. Prediabetes is when the blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Millions of adults in the United States have prediabetes and there are often no symptoms but living a healthy and active lifestyle can reverse the development of type 2 diabetes (Kelly, Jane). It is most common in adults with preexisting diabetes symptoms. Making lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet, weight loss and medication can slow the progression of prediabetes. Without lifestyle changes, the development of prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes within ten years.
There are a couple of early warning signs or symptoms that come with diabetes. If any of these symptoms are present, see a health care provider to have a blood test. Symptoms vary depending on how high the blood sugar is raised. Some symptoms develop quickly and can become severe at an alarming rate, while others take a while to develop and show physical symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common symptoms include:
- frequent urination, often at night
- excessive thirst
- unexplained weight loss
- increased appetite
- sudden blurry vision
- numbness or tingling sensation in hands or feet
- feeling very tired
- dry skin
- sores that heal slowly
- increased infections
People who develop type 1 diabetes also experience nausea, vomiting and stomach pains. Type 1 symptoms develop in a few weeks or months and can be severe. Symptoms typically appear for children, teens and young adults, although it can happen at any age.
Type 2 diabetes symptoms can slowly develop over several years and go a long time without being detected. Type 2 typically develops later in life and is more common with adults although more children and teens are developing it at an earlier age. Since the symptoms are hard to detect and take several years to develop, it is very important that everyone is aware of the risk factors. It’s also critical to visit a health care provider if there are signs of risk factors or symptoms.
Gestational diabetes typically shows up in the middle of the pregnancy and usually does not have any symptoms. Pregnant women should get tested by their doctors between 24 and 28 weeks of their pregnancy to see if they need to make any changes to preserve their health, as well as the health of the baby (Kelly, Jane).
Unfortunately, there is not a cure for diabetes; however, it is possible to manage the severity of symptoms by controlling diet, exercising, testing blood glucose levels at home and sometimes oral medication or taking insulin.
It is important to see a doctor if there are any clear symptoms of diabetes. The earlier that diabetes is diagnosed, the sooner treatment and prevention of the symptoms can begin.
The best way to care for diabetes is to prevent other complications. People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk for serious health complications such as heart disease and stroke, blindness and eye problems, kidney disease and amputations (American Diabetes Association). The best way to avoid other severe complications would be by managing lifestyle. Try eating healthier, getting physical exercise and losing weight.
Any sort of physical activity helps. Continuous activity, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, aerobic exercises like swimming, strength training and flexibility exercises all help with prevention.
Diabetes is a lifelong disease that does not have a cure, but it can be managed. To schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider to get blood tested, please contact AxessPointe Community Health Centers, Inc. today. For a full list of medical services, visit: https://axesspointe.org/medical-services Call us at (888) 975-9188 to schedule an appointment!
“Diabetes | Type 1 Diabetes | Type 2 Diabetes.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 30 July 2018, https://medlineplus.gov/diabetes.html
“Diabetes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 Aug. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444
“It’s Your Life. Treat Your Diabetes Well.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Nov. 2017, www.cdc.gov/features/livingwithdiabetes/index.html
Kelly, Jane. What is Diabetes? What is Diabetes?. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/media/presskits/aahd/diabetes.pdf
“Physical Activity.” American Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/lower-your-risk/activity.html?loc=atrisk-slabnav