Diabetes Awareness

Dr. Gary Childers, MD.

American Family Care Cherry Creek

Almost everyone knows someone who has diabetes. An estimated 23.6 million people in the United States—7.8 percent of the population—have diabetes, a serious, lifelong condition. (National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse)

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder.  Metabolism is the digestive process that the body uses to transform food into the energy.  How does it work?  Most of the food people eat is broken down into glucose, a form of sugar that passes into our bloodstream.  Once the glucose is in our bloodstream our cells can use it for fuel and energy.  However, for the glucose to enter our cells a critical hormone must be present.  That hormone is insulin and is produced by the pancreas.

When people eat, the pancreas should automatically produce the right amount of insulin to transport glucose from the blood into the cells.  In people with diabetes, either, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells simply don’t respond appropriately.  When this occurs, the glucose cannot be transported into the cells.  Glucose then builds up in our blood, and overflows into the urine where it passes out of the body.  Thus the body loses its main source of fuel.

There Are Three Main Types Of Diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease. An auto-immune disease results when the body’s system for fighting infection—the immune system—turns against a part of the body. In diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. A person who has Type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to live.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. About 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2. This form of diabetes is most often associated with old age, obesity, a family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical

inactivity, and certain ethnicities. About 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. (National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse)

Gestational Diabetes

About 3 to 8 percent of pregnant women in the United States develop gestational diabetes. Although this form of diabetes usually disappears after the birth of the baby, women who have had gestational diabetes have a 40 to 60 percent chance of developing Type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years.  Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormones of pregnancy or a shortage of insulin.

Impact of the Disease

Diabetes is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Diabetes is associated with long-term complications that affect almost every part of the body. The disease often leads to blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage. Uncontrolled diabetes can complicate pregnancy, and birth defects are more common in babies born to women with diabetes.

What are the Symptoms?

  •     Frequent urination
  •     Excessive thirst
  •     Unexplained weight loss
  •     Extreme hunger
  •     Sudden vision changes
  •     Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  •     Feeling very tired much of the time
  •     Very dry skin
  •     Sores that are slow to heal
  •     More infections than usual.

Who gets diabetes?

Diabetes is not contagious.  People cannot “catch” it from each other.  However certain factors can increase the risk of developing diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes occurs equally among males and females but is more common among whites than in nonwhites. Type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, especially in people who are overweight, and occurs more often in African American, American Indians, and some Asian populations. Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormones of pregnancy and occurs more frequently among women with a family history of diabetes.

How is Diabetes Treated?

Healthy eating, physical activity, and insulin injections are the basic therapies for Type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin taken must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose testing.

Healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing are the basic therapies for type 2 diabetes. In addition, many people with type 2 diabetes require oral medication, insulin, or both to control their blood glucose levels.

People with diabetes must take responsibility for their day-to-day care. The goal of diabetes management is to keep levels of blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol as close to the normal range as safely possible. People with diabetes should see a health care provider who will monitor their diabetes control and help them with the management of their diabetes. In addition, people with diabetes may see endocrinologists, who may specialize in diabetes care; ophthalmologists for eye examinations; podiatrists for routine foot care; and dietitians and diabetes educators who can teach the skills needed for daily diabetes management.

Is There A Cure For Diabetes?

Currently there is no cure for Diabetes. However, in response to the growing health burden of diabetes, the diabetes community is working with the US Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on three strategies: prevent diabetes; cure diabetes; and improve the quality of care of people with diabetes to prevent devastating complications. Progress is being made in all areas.