November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, a good opportunity to raise awareness of the disease. New cases of diabetes have more than tripled in the past 20 years in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has increased the need to provide information and education to the 30 million U.S. adults living with diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that disrupts the way your body turns food into energy. The disease is largely classified into two categories: type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, thereby causing blood sugar levels to rise. It typically develops in childhood or adolescence, but adults can be at risk of developing the disease. Type 1 diabetes develops over a few weeks to months with an abrupt onset of symptoms.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the kind most prevalent in Americans. It occurs when cells become insulin-resistant over time. This means the body makes insulin but the insulin does not work properly. This causes the body’s blood sugar levels to rise dramatically. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can develop slowly, and many people won’t show symptoms for years. This slow onset of insulin resistance is a treatable and reversible condition called prediabetes.
Prediabetes is also a common condition that occurs when blood sugar levels are much higher than average, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and 90 percent of those living with prediabetes are unaware they have it.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
According to reports from the American Diabetes Association, over half a million adults in Kentucky are living with diabetes. Of these, over 108,000 do not yet know they have diabetes.
If left untreated diabetes can lead to heart attack, vision loss and kidney disease. This is why it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of diabetes and have regular check-ups with your doctor.
Some symptoms of diabetes include extreme unquenchable thirst, insatiable hunger, frequent urination, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, numb or tingling hands or feet, dry skin and wounds that heal more slowly than usual.
Doctors can order blood tests to screen for and diagnose diabetes and prediabetes. These tests are typically inexpensive and are covered by most insurance policies.
Diabetes Education and Resources
The most important step for treating diabetes or prediabetes is for individuals to receive education from reliable accredited sources about how to properly manage their disease. Receiving education about diabetes has been shown to substantially reduce the long-term effects of the disease and improve overall health.
The Certified Diabetes Educators and Registered Dietitians at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Diabetes and Nutrition Care pride themselves in their ability to empathize with their patients, recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing diabetes, and troubleshoot real world sustainable treatment plans for people with diabetes who come from all walks of life.
To learn more about how to receive accredited diabetes education, call 859.313.2393.
Candice Tufano, RD
Candice Tufano, RD is with CHI Saint Joseph Health – Diabetes and Nutrition Care.