National Diabetes Awareness Month

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Education is Key in Preventing and Managing this Life-Altering Disease

More than eight percent of Americans have some form of diabetes. Of these 25.8 million individuals, seven million are undiagnosed and an additional 79 million people are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

With these staggering numbers, it is important to both understand and recognize the different types of diabetes diseases and learn how to prevent future diagnoses, if possible.

According to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, more than 15,000 children and 15,000 adults – approximately 80 people per day – are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in the U.S. each year. Once diagnosed, the autoimmune disease forces dependence on injected or pumped insulin for life.

On a biological level, the pancreas in those with type 1 diabetes no longer produces insulin. Children and adults alike must monitor their blood glucose levels closely, sometimes multiple times each day, to ensure proper levels are maintained. A diagnosis also means patients need to examine how each meal will affect blood glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is when the body does not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells ignore the insulin. As glucose builds up in the blood instead of being converted into fuel for cells, cells become starved for energy or the heightened glucose levels may affect the eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart, according to the American Diabetes Association.

There are many risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including a family history of diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle or diabetes during pregnancy. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and being of African American, Pacific Island, Hispanic or Native American descent increases the risk for developing the life-altering disease. Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian’s Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center has additional information on the diagnosis and prognosis of type 2 diabetes, as well as type 1 and gestational diabetes.

Women can also develop gestational diabetes while pregnant, which brings additional risks to their infant during childbirth and an increased chance for developing type 2 diabetes later in child- or adulthood.

Early detection of the disease can help prevent developing complications from diabetes over the long-term. However, many of the symptoms are dismissed early on because each may seem harmless at first.These symptoms include (for all three types, unless otherwise indicated):

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue and irritability
  • Frequent infections, especially recurring skin, gum or bladder infections (type 2 only)
  • Blurred vision (type 2 only)
  • Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal (type 2 only)
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and/or feet (type 2 only)

If you, a friend or loved one has one or more of these symptoms, make an appointment with your physician immediately. For additional information, consider attending one of Hoag’s Diabetes Self-Management Education program for help managing nutrition, insulin and other important disease factors.

Written by James Lindberg, M.D., Hoag Executive Health Chief of Services