Over 100 million adults in the United States have diabetes or pre-diabetes according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control. Alarmingly, the rate of type 2 diabetes has doubled over the last five years. This chronic condition can cause other serious health complications and even death if left untreated. It's imperative to know the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn't produce insulin correctly. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use and store sugar from food for energy. Problems occur when the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin, any insulin, or the body has a negative response to insulin. When working properly, insulin helps keep the sugar in the body at a steady level.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic condition that happens when the pancreas doesn't produce insulin. The patient must take insulin to keep their blood sugar level steady. Most cases of type 1 diabetes are diagnosed in childhood but can also be diagnosed later in life.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. In this case, the body produces insulin but doesn't use it correctly. Factors like genetics, being overweight, cellular conditions, and the liver producing too much glucose can lead to type 2 diabetes. Typically, type 2 diabetes is diagnosed in adults 45 and over. However, a rise in childhood obesity has increased rates of type 2 diabetes in children and teens.
Doctors diagnose patients with pre-diabetes when the blood sugar is high but not high enough to fall into the type 2 diabetes range. Being pre-diabetic also means you're at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and damage to your heart and kidneys. With the proper diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes many people can ward of these dangerous health conditions.
Some pregnant women that have never had high blood sugar or diabetes may develop diabetes during pregnancy. It's not entirely clear why this happens. After delivery, gestational diabetes will often resolve itself.
Diabetes is a serious condition, but it's estimated that last year over 7 million people were treated for diabetes complications, yet were unaware they were diabetic. Early detection and consistent treatment are live-saving measures when it comes to successfully managing the condition. Be aware of the symptoms, and see a doctor if you're experiencing any of the following:
- Increased appetite
- Increased thirst
- Urinating more than normal
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Itchy skin
- Pain or numbness in feet and legs
- Yeast infections – Can occur in both men and women.
- Slow healing wounds
- Stomach pain
Know the Risks
It's important to assess your risk factors for developing diabetes. These include:
- Family history: If a close relative has type 1 diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing it.
- Age: People over the age of 45 are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Race: African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Asians are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It's unclear why this is.
- Weight: Being overweight increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: A lack of consistent physical activity puts you at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides: Keeping these levels in check is important to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a serious health condition that plagues millions of Americans. While there are certain risk factors you can't change, focusing on a healthy diet and consistent exercise is key to avoiding or managing diabetes. At the Augusta Health Diabetes & Endocrinology Clinic, we can help you with your health concerns and treatment.