Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery; although factors such as genetics, obesity and lack of exercise play a role in your chance of developing the disease.
The 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet shows that 25.8 million Americans, or 8.3 percent of the US population, have diabetes. Another 79 million Americans, over the age of 20, have blood glucose levels that classify them as having pre-diabetes.
In the state of Ohio, approximately 8 percent of the population has diabetes, making it the sixth-leading cause of death. In Montgomery County, the diagnosis rate is 10.7 percent. (Data from Ohio Diabetes Fact Sheet 2008)
Diabetes is a chronic disease that does not go away, even with treatment. The good news is that diabetes can be controlled with healthy lifestyle habits. At Samaritan Diabetes Center we believe the more you know and understand about the disease, the better prepared you are to take care of yourself and live a healthy, productive life.
Ways to manage your diabetes include:
- Exercise regularly
- Plan your meals
- Reduce the stress in your life
- See your doctor every few months
- Take your medications as prescribed
- Test your blood sugar regularly
Learn more about diabetes:
Types of Diabetes
- Type 1 diabetes results from the body's failure to produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone that "unlocks" the cells of the body, allowing glucose to enter and fuel them. It is estimated that only 5 to 10 percent of Americans with diabetes are diagnosed with type 1.
- Type 2 diabetes results from low levels of insulin combined with a failure to properly use insulin, also known as insulin resistance. This is the most common form of diabetes in Americans. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled by modifying your diet and increasing exercise. While symptoms and effects often vanish with a modified lifestyle, patients are never cured of the disease. Pregnancy, obesity and steroid use can cause symptoms to reappear.
- Gestational diabetes affects 2 to 10 percent of all pregnant women. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35 to 65 percent chance of developing diabetes in the next 10 to 20 years.
- Pre-diabetes is a condition in which a person's blood glucose levels are higher than the normal range, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. There are 79 million Americans who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes are often dramatic and sudden, causing a person to feel quite ill. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes are often subtle, and may be mistakenly attributed to obesity or aging.
Common symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:
- Blurry vision
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Frequent urination
- Increased fatigue
- Unusual weight loss
There are three ways to diagnose diabetes:
- Fasting blood sugar - A fasting blood sugar level between 100 and 125 mg/dl signals pre-diabetes. A fasting blood sugar level of 126 mg/dl or higher indicates diabetes.
- Random blood sugar - A random blood sugar test result above 200 is a diagnosis of diabetes.
- HgA1c - The HgA1c is the average blood sugar level over a span of 10 to 12 weeks. Any result over 6.5 (an average blood sugar of about 150 over several weeks) is a diagnosis of diabetes.
Complications of Diabetes
Healthy lifestyle changes and medication to control blood sugar levels can significantly reduce symptoms and complications associated with diabetes. In fact, a study by the Diabetes Prevention Program showed that weight loss and increased exercise can reduce the development of diabetes by 58 percent.
When not controlled, diabetes complications can include:
- Amputations - People with diabetes may have many problems with circulation and nerve function that can result in the amputation of feet and legs.
- Blindness and eye problems - Diabetes causes retinopathy, which leads to blindness. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness in adults.
- Complications of pregnancy - Uncontrolled blood sugar levels in pregnant women can cause birth defects and/or excessively large babies.
- Dental disease - Gum disease is more common in people with diabetes. When blood sugar is poorly controlled, gums can become inflamed and infected.
- Heart disease and stroke - Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to suffer from heart disease and/or stroke than those without diabetes.
- High blood pressure - Sixty-seven percent of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure.
- Kidney disease - Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.
- Nervous system disease - Continued high blood sugar causes damage to the nervous system. This results in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion of food, carpel tunnel syndrome, erectile dysfunction and other nerve problems.
- Other complications of diabetes - People with diabetes can develop biochemical imbalances and severely elevated blood sugars. Diabetes increases the risk of developing other illnesses like the flu or pneumonia, and is also associated with depression.
Risk Factors for Diabetes
Diabetes can strike anyone. However, African-Americans, Hispanics, Latinos and those from an Asian background are at an increased risk of developing the disease. Other risk factors include:
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- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Unhealthy eating habits