Editor’s Note: This article and the information in it are not to be used as a self-diagnosis. If you, or anyone you know, has similar symptoms or is having issues controlling their blood sugar levels, please consult your regular physician.

It’s never easy to hear that one has been diagnosed with diabetes but roughly 1.6 million new cases are being diagnosed each year. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), in 2007 23.6 million children and adults in the U.S., 7.8 percent of the population, have diabetes. 17.9 million people have been diagnosed while 5.7 went undiagnosed.

There are two types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, usually affects children and young adults. Those who have Type 1 do not produce insulin but with insulin therapy and other treatments type 1 diabetes can be controlled. According to the ADA, insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy.

Some symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are: frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, extreme fatigue and irritability.

Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes for millions of Americans, is more risky because many don’t know that they are having any problems. According to the ADA, Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. Also, the risk for Type 2 increases as individuals get older.

Those who suffer from Type 2 either don’t make enough insulin or the body ignores the insulin that is made.

Some symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are: frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, extreme fatigue, irritability, frequent infections, blurred vision, cuts/bruises that are slow to heal, tingling or numbness in the hands/feet, and recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections.

Pregnant women, around 28 weeks or later in gestation, can be affected by a type of diabetes that is called gestational diabetes. According to the ADA, four percent of all pregnant women in the U.S. (approximately 135,000) are affected each year.

It is unclear what causes gestational diabetes, but it is theorized that the pregnancy hormones block the action of the mother’s insulin in her body. This does not mean that the women had diabetes prior to pregnancy and it doesn’t mean that they will have it once they have given birth. All pregnant women that are under the care of an obstetrician are required to have a blood glucose test between their 24 and 28 week of pregnancy. If diagnosed, their doctor will follow their pregnancy closely to ensure a health pregnancy and delivery for mom and baby.

“A lot of people get scared when they hear the word ‘diabetes,’” said Virginia McNair. McNair lives in Mauriceville but works at in the Rehabilitation Unit at Jasper Memorial Hospital and helps treat many patients that suffer from diabetes. She is also the school nurse at Jasper Intermediate School in Jasper. Years ago, diabetes was a death sentence but that’s not the case anymore. “The medicines we have today have made a huge difference,” McNair said.

Unfortunately, many don’t take the diagnosis seriously and refuse to seek treatment. This is not only dangerous but can be disastrous on the human body. Some complications from diabetes are: kidney damage, heart and blood vessel disease, eye damage (glaucoma, cataracts), foot damage (nerve damage), skin conditions (bacterial and fungal infections), mouth conditions (gum infections), hearing loss and Alzheimer’s Disease. According to the
Mayo Clinic, Type 2 diabetes my increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia. “The poorer your blood sugar control is, the greater the risk appears to be.”

There are several tests out now that help monitor someone’s blood sugar levels. The A1C is a test that takes an average of the blood glucose level over the past two to three months. The test shows if the current treatment plan is effective but the test is not enough to make sure an individual’s blood sugar is in control. Patients are encourage to check their blood sugar levels every day with a blood glucose meter and they are also encouraged to keep a log of each reading. Each person’s ideal blood sugar level is different and should be determined by a doctor.

Diabetes does not have to control one’s life. All it takes is self-control, moderate exercise and a healthy diet. Many assume that sugar needs to be cut out of a diabetics diet but the bigger concern is carbohydrates. A diabetic herself, McNair said “you do need to be aware of table sugar, but mostly because it makes you fat. Keeping your carbohydrate intake under control is more important than managing the table sugar.”

Hypoglycemia, when the blood sugar levels get too low, and hyperglycemia, when the blood sugar levels are too high, are side effects of being diabetic. Again, keeping a regular check on blood sugar levels and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can help from extreme fluctuations in the blood sugar levels.

“People who are newly diagnosed with [diabetes] and are concerned with it can talk to a nutrition specialist that specialize in diabetic patients,” McNair said. “[The nutrition specialists] can help them construct their diet to fit their needs.”

For more information on diabetes, log on to www.diabetes.org or schedule an appointment with your regular physician.

About Nicole Gibbs

Editor of The Record Newspapers