Deborah Martin, RN, is the Diabetes Educator for Banner Thunderbird Medical Center.
Question: What does it mean to have diabetes?
Answer: Diabetes is a disease in which the body doesn’t produce or properly utilize insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to sustain life. It converts sugar, starches and other food into glucose, which the body uses for energy.
Question: What causes diabetes?
Answer: The cause of diabetes is still unknown; however, both genetics and environmental factors including obesity and lack of exercise seem to be factors.
Question: Are there different types of diabetes?
Answer: Yes. Type 1 diabetes results from the body’s failure to produce insulin. Approximately 5-10% of Americans with diabetes are diagnosed with type 1.
Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance (the body does not use insulin properly) combined with relative insulin deficiency. The majority of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 2.
Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women, and increases the risk of developing type 2 later in life.
Pre-diabetes occurs when an individual’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Nearly 54 million Americans have pre-diabetes. People with pre-diabetes have an opportunity to prevent or delay progression to type 2 with weight loss, diet, and exercise.
There are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States who have diabetes. Although 14.6 million have been diagnosed, 6.2 million people are unaware they have the disease.
Question: What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Answer: Many people fail to recognize or do not experience diabetes symptoms, explaining why it often goes undiagnosed. But, early detection of symptoms and treatment can greatly decrease the chances of developing the complications of diabetes. Some symptoms are: frequent urination, excessive thirst or hunger, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability and blurry vision. If you have one or more of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
Question: Is having diabetes dangerous?
Answer: It can be, especially if poorly controlled. Diabetes increases the risk for some serious, potentially life-threatening, complications. Good management of the disease helps reduce risk factors; unfortunately, many people don’t know they have the disease until they develop one of the complications. Heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage, amputations, dental disease, complications of pregnancy and sexual dysfunction are some of the complications associated with diabetes.
Question: How can I find out if I have diabetes?
Answer: See your health care provider for a Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPG) or an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT). These tests are both used to diagnose pre-diabetes or diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends the FPG because it’s easier, faster and less expensive to perform.
For more information, go to diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES.
All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult a doctor.