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What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a group of conditions that interferes with how thebody uses glucose – a form of sugar – for energy. In diabetes, glucose cannot get into the cells. Normally, the pancreas [an organ in the body] makes a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps glucose get inside the cells.
In a person with diabetes , the pancreas either:
- does not make enough insulin [Type 1 diabetes]
- makes insulin, but the cells don’t use it well. [Type 2 diabetes].
In both types of diabetes, glucose builds up in the blood because it cannot get into the cells.
Who gets diabetes?
You may be at higher risk for diabetes if you:
- have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes
- are overweight
- lead an inactive lifestyle
- have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- are African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Pacific Islander or Asian American.
The causes of type 2 diabetes are unknown, but it may run in families and some people may inherit it.
Early detection is important! About 1 in 20 Americans has diabetes. Many don’t even know it!
If diabetes is left untreated, it can cause life-threatening health problems. These can include:
Get tested – it’s easy! Take this simple test from the American Diabetes Association to see if you are at risk for having diabetes.high blood pressure
- heart disease
- stroke [brain attack]
- poor circulation which can lead to amputations
- foot problems
- eye problems
- nerve damage
- kidney disease
- diabetic coma
Your health-care provider can use simple blood tests to check for diabetes.
- If you are 45 or older, get a blood test every 3 years.
- If you are at higher risk, get tested sooner and more often.
- If you think your child may be at risk for diabetes, ask your child’s health-care provider about getting him or her tested.
Symptoms for each type of diabetes are similar – but they may follow different patterns.
Type 1 diabetes often appears suddenly. Symptoms may include:
- constant thirst
- a frequent need to urinate
- extreme hunger
- rapid weight loss
- nausea or vomiting
- blurred vision
- lack of energy
Untreated, Type 1 diabetes can lead to coma.
Type 2 appears gradually. Many people have no clear symptoms. If present, symptoms may include any type 1 symptom. Other symptoms may include:
- frequent infections
- dry, itchy skin
- numbness or tingling in hands or feet
- slow-healing wounds
You can usually lower high blood glucose by balancing meals, physical activity, and weight control. Sometimes, medication is also needed.
Diet: Your health-care provider and a dietitian may give you a special meal plan to keep blood glucose levels steady.
Physical Activity: Regular physical activity lowers blood glucose – and helps ensure good physical and mental health. Consult you health-care provider before beginning an exercise program.
Weight control: Weight loss alone may bring blood glucose back to normal – especially in type 2 Diabetes. Talk to a health-care provider before changing your diet or beginning a weight control plan.
Medications: Insulin is always prescribed for type 1 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, insulin and/or diabetes pills can also lower blood glucose.
Monitoring your blood glucose: Testing and equipment methods vary. Frequent monitoring helps you and your health-care provider see how treatment is working.
You and your health-care provider can work together to control diabetes and avoid complications.
For more information, contact the following Diabetes resources:
|American Dietetic Association||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention||National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive & Kidney Diseases|
|American Heart Association||National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute|
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