Q: I hear a lot about obesity and diabetes. What is diabetes and how do you treat it?
A: In 2011, the American Diabetes Association found that 25.8 million children and adults — 8.3 percent of the population — have been diagnosed with diabetes.
There are two major types of diabetes but let’s just look at Type 2 diabetes, which is the more prevalent of the two types. It is often the result of inactivity and obesity. More than 40 million Americans have pre-diabetes (which often comes before Type 2 diabetes). It is thought that there are many more with diabetes, as Type 2 diabetes develops slowly, and some people with high blood sugar have no symptoms
First, what is diabetes? Diabetes is usually a lifelong (chronic) disease in which there are high levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes can be caused by too little insulin, resistance to insulin or both. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to control blood sugar.
To understand diabetes, it is important to first understand the normal process by which food is broken down and used by the body for energy. Several things happen when food is digested:
• A sugar called glucose enters the bloodstream. Glucose is a source of fuel for the body.
• An organ called the pancreas makes insulin. The role of insulin is to move glucose from the bloodstream into muscle, fat and liver cells, where it can be used as fuel.
People with diabetes have high blood sugar because their body cannot move sugar into fat, liver and muscle cells to be stored for energy. This is because either their pancreas does not make enough insulin, their cells do not respond to insulin normally or both of the above.
High blood sugar levels can cause several symptoms, including blurry vision, excess thirst, fatigue, hunger, frequent urination and weight loss.
• Symptoms. Diabetes can lead to other serious problems, including eye problems, including trouble seeing (especially at night) and light sensitivity and blindness; skin problems, including painful sores and infections. Can lead to amputation. Nerves in the body can become damaged, causing pain, tingling and a loss of feeling; and digestive problems.
• Treatment. Early on in Type 2 diabetes, you may be able to reverse the disease with lifestyle changes. Also, some cases of Type 2 diabetes can be cured with weight loss surgery. Treatment usually involves medicines, diet and exercise to control blood sugar levels and prevent symptoms and problems. Getting better control over your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels can help reduce the risk of kidney disease, eye disease, nervous system disease, heart attack and stroke. To prevent diabetes complications, visit your health care provider at least two to four times a year and talk about any problems you are having.
Learning how to live with diabetes is important, and at Madison County Memorial Hospital we have a dedicated team of professionals to help you take control of your life. Our certified diabetic educator works with our dietician to help those diagnosed with diabetes take positive steps to ensure a healthy future. Call (515) 462-5206 for more information.
Information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, provided by Chris Nolte, director, Public Relations and Development, Madison County Health Care Systems, 300 West Hutchings, Winterset, 515-462-9749.