The Devastating Impact of Diabetes on our Community
Diabetes is one of America’s most prevalent chronic diseases. In Washington, D.C., more than 8.4 percent of adults over 18 are diagnosed with diabetes. On average, people diagnosed with diabetes incur nearly four times as many medical costs as people without the disease. The medical complexity of diabetes requires specially trained health care professionals, as well as the range of services that a quality hospital like Providence offers at the Providence Diabetes and Nutrition Center.
The most common forms of diabetes and related conditions are Type 1, Type II, Gestational, and Pre-Diabetes. Life threatening conditions that can accompany diabetes, also known as co-morbidities, include heart disease or other cardiovascular illness, blindness, nerve damage, kidney damage and macrosomia, or a large baby (for gestational diabetes). Macrosomia can cause obesity and susceptibility to Type II diabetes in the future for both the mother and infant.
Understanding the Risks and Symptoms of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. Far more common are pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, and there are important risk factors for developing the disease.
Major risk factors for pre-diabetes and Type II diabetes include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Family history of disease
- Age (likelihood increases with age, particularly if other risk factors are present – although the incidence of Type 2 diabetes is rising among adolescents)
- Ethnicity (diabetes is more common among Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders)
- Pregnancy (women who develop gestational diabetes while pregnant are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life)
Common diabetes symptoms include:
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Increased hunger
- Blurry vision
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Frequent skin, bladder or gum infections
- Wounds that don't heal
- Extreme, unexplained fatigue
Note: In some diabetes cases, there are no symptoms.
If not managed, diabetes can lead to long-term health issues such as:
- Heart attack
- Kidney failure
- Vascular disease (which could require an amputation left untreated)
- Nerve damage
Treating Diabetes and Related Conditions
Patients with pre-diabetes or diabetes are strongly recommended to self-manage their disease with therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) as well as ongoing clinical management of their condition to achieve the best outcomes and quality of life.
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) include:
- Learning how to monitor blood glucose with daily testing to determine the effectiveness of meal plans, activity, and medication on keeping blood glucose levels within normal range.
- Following a meal plan designed for individuals with diabetes.
- Maintaining or beginning a regular schedule of physical activity, which can help the body use insulin better so it can convert glucose into energy for cells.
- Learning to self-administer insulin injections (for patients with Type 1 diabetes, and some with Type 2 diabetes)
- Finding the proper balance and use of medication to control the disease.
Clinical Management of diabetes should include:
- An appointment at least every six months with a physician specializing in diabetes, such as an endocrinologist.
- Periodic appointments with other members of a diabetes management team, including a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a Registered Dietitians (RD).
- Support from an exercise physiologist for help in developing a physical activity plan, and perhaps, a social worker, psychologist or other mental health professional for help with the stresses and challenges of living with a chronic disease.
- Annual eye exams by an ophthalmologist to catch and treat eye problems related to the disease early.