Defeat Diabetes Month: What You Need to Know About Diabetes
Diabetes affects over 37 million people in the U.S. and an estimated 1 in 5 of them don’t know that they have it, according to the American Diabetes Association. To spread awareness and encourage the public to monitor their risk for diabetes, the Defeat Diabetes Foundation commemorates the month of April as Defeat Diabetes Month.
Read on to learn more about diabetes, how it is diagnosed and the treatment options available.
Causes and symptoms
Diabetes is a chronic medical condition characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a type of sugar that provides energy to the body’s cells. People with diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin or their body doesn’t use it effectively.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps regulate blood glucose levels by facilitating the absorption of glucose into the cells. When insulin is not functioning properly, glucose builds up in the blood, leading to high blood sugar.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 2 is a metabolic disorder that results from insulin resistance and is often related to lifestyle factors such as lack of physical activity and being overweight or obese. An additional type of diabetes is known as gestational diabetes, which occurs in pregnant women.
Symptoms of diabetes depend on the type and severity of the disease. Common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Increased thirst
- Abnormal weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Increased appetite
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores or frequent infections
- Areas of darkened skin
Diagnosis and testing
When it comes to diagnosing diabetes, providers utilize three types of blood tests to measure the patient’s blood glucose levels.
Fasting plasma glucose: This test checks your fasting blood glucose levels, which requires not eating or drinking fluids (except water) for at least eight hours before the test. This test is usually done first thing in the morning, before breakfast. Patients with a fasting blood glucose of 126 mg/dl or higher are considered to be diabetic.
Oral glucose tolerance test: This testing method takes place over two hours and involves checking blood glucose levels two times — once at the start of the exam a second time at the end of the exam. After collecting the first blood sample, patients are asked to drink a special sweetened beverage and wait two hours. Then another blood sample is collected. Patients who test at 200 mg/dl or higher are considered to be diabetic.
A1C: This testing method measures your average glucose levels for the past two to three months. Patients don’t have to fast before an A1C test. An A1C of 6.5% or higher is considered to be diabetic.
Treatment and management
The goal of diabetes treatment is to regulate blood sugar levels so they stay within a healthy range. The three main types of diabetes treatment and management are lifestyle changes, medication and blood sugar monitoring.
Lifestyle and diet changes: For people with diabetes, a healthy diet that’s low in refined carbohydrates and sugar can help regulate blood sugar levels. It’s also recommended that patients exercise regularly, as daily exercise improves insulin sensitivity and can help keep blood sugar levels in check.
Medication: Several types of medications are used to treat diabetes. Insulin therapy may be used in people with Type 1 diabetes, as well as some people with Type 2 diabetes who have difficulty regulating their blood sugar levels through lifestyle changes alone. Insulin injections help even out blood sugar levels in people with Type 1 diabetes, while oral medications that stimulate insulin production or improve insulin sensitivity can be used to treat Type 2 diabetes.
Blood sugar monitoring: People with diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar levels regularly to ensure that they are within a target range. They may also need to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol and other factors. Regular checkups with a healthcare provider are important to prevent further complications developing as a result of the treatment plan.
Midwest Express Clinic is here to help you monitor your diabetes with regular check-ups, diagnostic blood testing and medication management, available seven days a week at all clinic locations. To find a clinic nearest you, visit midwestexpressclinic.com/locations.