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Diabetes FAQs | Diabetes Awareness Month

Karen Homan, Registered Dietician, educates a patient newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes awareness is more important than ever as approximately 5 million people in the United States live with undiagnosed diabetes. November is American Diabetes Month and Karen Homan, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, is answering some frequently asked questions.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, more commonly called diabetes, is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, or blood sugar, level is too high resulting from insulin deficiencies. Blood glucose is the body’s main source of energy and comes from food. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into the body’s cells to be used for energy. Sometimes the body doesn’t make enough (or any) insulin or it doesn’t use insulin well. As a result, glucose stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells – resulting in high blood sugars.

What are the different types of diabetes?

There are three common types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin and must take it daily.

Type 2 Diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, can develop at any age, even during childhood. However, this type of diabetes occurs most often in middle-aged and older people. People with Type 2 Diabetes do not make or use insulin well.

Gestational Diabetes develops in some women when they are pregnant. Most of the time, this type of diabetes goes away after the baby is born. However, if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

What health risks are associated with Diabetes?

Over time, high blood glucose related from undiagnosed and/or untreated diabetes can lead to health problems like:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • kidney disease
  • eye problems
  • dental disease
  • nerve damage
  • foot problems

A routine diabetes screening is the best ways to get an early diagnosis and help prevent these complications.

Who should be screened for Diabetes?

The American Diabetes Association recommends routine screening every three years for all men and women starting at age forty-five. Anyone who exhibits symptoms or who meets one or more high-risk criteria should be screened earlier and possibly more frequently.

Symptoms may include fatigue, extreme hunger or thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, infections, slow healing wounds and blurry vision. Risk factors may include a family history of diabetes, having Gestational Diabetes, high cholesterol or triglycerides, high blood pressure, being overweight or obese and having a personal history of heart disease, stroke or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should be screened at your next well visit.

I’ve been diagnosed with Diabetes. Now what?

Work with your doctor to come up with a plan to treat your Diabetes and manage your blood sugar levels. Mercer Health’s Center for Healthy Weight and Wellness offers Diabetes Education, a program that is recognized by the American Diabetes Association and tailored to meet each individual’s needs.

A provider referral is required – when discussing your diagnosis with your healthcare provider, ask whether diabetic education is right for you.

For more information about Diabetes Education and Support, contact the Center for Healthy Weight and Wellness at myhealth@mercer-health.com or 419-678-8446.