Diabetes can be confusing. Whether you are first diagnosed or even if you have had diabetes for years, there are many questions that you or your family members may have. So take advantage of this educational resource to help you learn more about this condition and how to manage and take control of your lifestyle
- What is Diabetes? (click for answer)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines diabetes as “a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is converted into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy and growth. The pancreas, an organ near your stomach, creates a hormone called insulin to help glucose, a form of sugar, get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or cannot use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.”
- What are the types of diabetes? (click for answer)
Type 1 diabetes was previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile-onset diabetes. According to the CDC this type of diabetes is estimated to include for 5% to 10% of all diagnosed cases. Type 1 diabetes develops when the body's immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells, the only cells in the body that make the hormone insulin, which regulates blood glucose.
Type 2 diabetes was previously known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes. This type is estimated to account for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes usually begins as insulin resistance, a disorder in which the cells do not use insulin properly. As the need for insulin rises, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose metabolism, physical inactivity and race/ethnicity. Type 2 diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can impact women during pregnancy. If not treated, it can cause problems for mothers and babies. Gestational diabetes develops in 2% to 5% of all pregnancies but usually disappears when a pregnancy is over.
For more information please visit the CDC’s resource guides.
- What are the symptoms of diabetes? (click for answer)
Most of the symptoms of diabetes are seemingly common; this is often why diabetes will go undiagnosed. According to the American Diabetes Association recent studies show that detecting diabetes early on can decrease your chance of complications. It is important to remember that only a physician or other healthcare professional can make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment. If you have one or more of the following symptoms please see your physician:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Sudden vision changes
- Slow healing cuts or bruises
- Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
- Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections
For more information visit the ADA’s resource page on diabetes symptoms.
- What is pre-diabetes? (click for answer)
Pre-diabetes is the state that occurs when a person's blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost usually have "pre-diabetes", in which their blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. There are 54 million people in the United States who have pre-diabetes.
The ADA recommends pre diabetes testing if you fall in one of the following groups :
-If you are overweight and age 45 or older, you should be checked during your next routine medical office visit.
-If your weight is normal and you're over age 45, you should ask your doctor during a routine office visit if testing is appropriate.
-For adults younger than 45 and overweight, your doctor may recommend testing if you have any other risk factors for diabetes or prediabetes, including:
high blood pressure
low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides
a family history of diabetes
a history of gestational diabetes
belonging to an ethnic or minority group at high risk for diabetes
to read more on Pre Diabetes visit the ADA’s resource page here.
- Who is at risk for type 2 diabetes? (click for answer)
The ADA identifies the following as Risk factors for type 2 diabetes:
-Age of 45+
-Family history of diabetes
-Prior history of gestational diabetes
-Impaired glucose tolerance
-Low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides, high blood pressure
-Race/ethnicity (e.g., Non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives)
- What is the treatment for diabetes? (click for answer)
Healthy eating, physical activity and insulin injections/pumps 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. Many people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose by following a careful diet and exercise program, losing excess weight and taking oral medication.
People with diabetes must take responsibility for their day-to-day care, and keep blood glucose levels from going too low or too high through daily testing, as prescribed by ones physician. People with diabetes should see a health care provider who will monitor their diabetes control and help them learn to manage 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 teach the skills needed for daily diabetes management. Many people with diabetes also need to take medications to control their cholesterol and blood pressure.
For more information please visit the Mayo Clinic on their further suggestions for treatment for diabetes
- Why should I self test? (click for answer)
Many people think they can tell what their blood sugar is by how they feel. Self monitoring blood glucose (SMBG) or self testing is very important to controlling your blood sugar. It's the only way to know for sure how your body reacts to medications, insulin, food and exercise. Regular diabetic testing with prescribed meters will help you develop a pattern management system to keep your blood sugar within target range. It will help your doctor in providing or changing your treatment plan and will also help you avoid High and Low Sugar reactions. These reactions can cause serious health concerns, including fainting, convulsions, coma and death.
Visit the Mayo Clinic site for more tips on how to test your blood sugar properly
- What is high blood sugar? (click for answer)
Hyperglycemia (High Blood Sugar). Hyperglycemia is a serious health problem for those with diabetes - and develops when there is too much sugar in the blood. When a person with diabetes has hyperglycemia frequently or for long periods of time, damage to nerves, blood vessels and other body organs can occur. You can help prevent Hyperglycemic reactions by making sure you are following your meal plan exercise program and medicine schedule. Know your diet, and keep track of the total amounts of carbohydrate that you are consuming. Test your blood glucose regularly and keep track of the results. Know when to contact your health care provider if you have repeated abnormal blood glucose readings. Make sure you always wear medical identification that states you have diabetes so you can receive proper treatment in the event of an emergency.
Symptoms of Hyperglycemia include:
- Increased thirst
- Difficulty concentrating
- Blurred vision
- Frequent urination
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Weight loss
- Blood glucose more than 180 mg/dL
For more valuable information on high blood glucose visit the Joslin Diabetes Center’s page on hyperglycemia here
- What is low blood sugar? (click for answer)
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar). The symptoms of hypoglycemia can vary from person to person, as can the severity. Classically, hypoglycemia is diagnosed by a low blood sugar with symptoms that resolve when the sugar level returns to the normal range. While patients who do not have any metabolic problems can complain of symptoms suggestive of low blood sugar, true hypoglycemia usually occurs in patients being treated for diabetes (type 1 and type 2).
The Mayo clinic identifies the following symptoms for Hypoglycemia:
- Intense hunger
- Trouble speaking
- Will my diabetes ever go away? (click for answer)
According to the Joslin Diabetes center there is no cure for diabetes. Neither type 1 (juvenile onset or insulin-requiring) diabetes or type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes ever goes away. Overweight patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may discover that their blood glucose returns to normal if they lose weight and begin regular physical activity.
Does this mean their diabetes has disappeared? Unfortunately it does not. The development of type 2 diabetes is a gradual process in which the body becomes unable to produce enough insulin for its needs and/or the body's cells become resistant to insulin's effects. Gradually the patient goes from having impaired glucose tolerance a decreased but still adequate ability to convert food into energy, to having diabetes.
High blood glucose would return if the patient were to scale back on their increased physical activity level or to gain back some of the pounds lost previously. Overeating at a meal, their blood glucose probably would continue to go higher than someone without diabetes. In time, the patient who could maintain normal blood glucose with diet and exercise alone may discover that he or she needs to add oral diabetes medications - or perhaps even insulin injections - to keep blood glucose in a healthy range.
The good news for a type 1 and type 2 patient if insulin, medication, weight loss, physical activity and changes in eating result in normal blood glucose, it means their diabetes is well-controlled and their risk of developing diabetes complications is much lower. But it doesn't mean that their diabetes has gone away.
For more information or questions see the Joslin Diabetes Center