Getting to know Diabetes Mellitus

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes Mellitus, which is usually called  "diabetes," is a disease of the pancreas. This body organ produces a hormone called insulin that helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Mada Jamil, MD, MPH

Mada Jamil, MD, MPH

 

Diabetes could be type 1 or type 2. Type 1 diabetes or what is called Juvenile diabetes, or Insulin Dependent Diabetes, is a condition that mainly occurs at a very young age, due to lack of insulin secretion from the pancreases. Type 2 diabetes, or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes, occurs when the body resists insulin. This could occur at any age and it is the most common type of diabetes among people and is sometimes called adult diabetes as it usually occurs after the age of 35, although that is not the rule because it is found in young adults and even children.

Additionally, there are two other kinds of diabetes conditions which are called pre-diabetes where the individual is probably going to be diabetic if does not change life style, or improve overall health conditions. Then there is gestational diabetes, which usually occurs during pregnancy, this does not mean that the women will continue to have it after delivery but she will need to be closely monitored by her doctor to be sure that it disappears completely after delivery.

How common is Diabetes?

Diabetes is present in about 370 million people worldwide, and there are another 187 million person who do not even know that they have diabetes. In the United States, there are about 29 million Americans who have diabetes or 9.3% of the population, and of those about 1.25 million are children and adults with type 1 Insulin Dependent Diabetes.

According to the Research Institute, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and it kills more lives than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Also, the American person should know that diabetes costs the American public more than $345 billion.

 

What are my risks in developing Diabetes?

Some people are at higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes than others.

The risk factors include: family history of diabetes, obesity, especially if over 20% of ideal body weight, eating food rich with sugar, lack of exercise, smoking, heavy alcohol use, or those with high blood pressure, older age and others.

 

How do I know if I have Diabetes?

There are some signs and symptoms that can alert you to the possibility that you might have diabetes, like feeling hungry more than usual, and excessively thirsty, having frequent urination, feeling tired, weak and fatigue, and having unexplained weight loss. Individuals may also suffer from blurred vision or vision changes, and may feel numbness in their feet, their wounds heal slower than usual and have recurrent infections, especially skin infections and urinary tract infections.

There’s also the possibility of being diagnosed with pre-diabetes, pre-diabetes is when an individual has higher than normal blood sugar levels, but are not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. It is estimated that there are over 2.6 million adults that have pre-diabetes. Early management and intervention can reduce the possibility of becoming a diabetic.

If you or someone you care for seems to have some or all of these symptoms, they will need to follow up with their doctor, where physical exam and testing with blood work is part of the work up for diagnosis.

 

I have Diabetes, what should I do?

Diabetes is a chronic disease, it is not an infection that can be cured, it is a life long condition that we should learn how to live with and control by modifying our diet, increasing activity, and taking prescribed medications. In addition to testing blood sugar levels at home, blood sugar levels should be tested periodically at the laboratory every 3 to 6 months depending on how well your diabetes is controlled.  Following these recommendations on a regular basis with visits to the doctor can help manage the disease and prevent it from getting out of control and causing complication to other body parts.

 

What are the problems that diabetes can cause?

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause many problems, including but not limited to the following: heart disease and heart failure, stroke, and infections that are difficult to treat because diabetes does lower someone’s immunity to fight an infection.

Also, people with diabetes do have more Periodontal disease, teeth issues. Routine preventive dental care is important for people with type 2 diabetes.

Kidney disease is a common problem that we see in people with diabetes, if not routinely checked and managed, it can lead to kidney failure and possibly lead to a need for dialysis.

Eyes are another target of diabetes and can lead to blindness. Regular screenings for diabetic effects on the eye are highly recommended.

Foot problems and neuropathy are also common complications that can happen because of diabetes and can lead to pain and burning or decreased sensations in the feet. In some cases amputations will be the only way to manage foot problems if diabetes is not well controlled.

It has been also shown that there is an association between depression and diabetes, as well an association between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and diabetes. Treating one can help manage the other.

So, as we always say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Following up with your doctor on a regular basis, having your yearly physical, sharing with your doctor any symptoms that concern you, and following a healthy lifestyle can help prevent or control Diabetes.

Mada Jamil MD, MPH is a doctor with Ascension Medical Group in Sterling Heights.