Diabetes is a disease that affects how your body uses blood glucose. Glucose is another name for sugar. If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, our bodies then use it for energy. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes glucose to build up in your blood. Too much glucose can lead to serious health problems.
Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. There is no cure for diabetes BUT You CAN control diabetes, You CAN be healthy.
Diabetes conditions include type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Potentially reversible diabetes conditions include pre diabetes and gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy:
- Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile onset diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin. Type 1 diabetes only accounts for about 5% of diagnosed cases. Risk factors are less well defined for type 1 diabetes than for type 2 diabetes, but autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are factors in developing this type of diabetes.
Healthy eating, physical activity, and insulin injections are the basic therapies for type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin taken must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose testing.
- Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. About 90% to 95% of all people with diabetes have type 2. This type of diabetes is often associated with older age, obesity, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and certain ethnicities. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk. With type 2 diabetes the body is producing enough insulin, but for unknown reasons the body cannot use the insulin effectively.
Healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing are the basic therapies for type 2 diabetes. In addition, many people with type 2 diabetes require oral medication, insulin, or both to control their blood glucose levels.
- Pre Diabetes is when a person’s blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetic. This condition puts you at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Gestational diabetes develops late in pregnancy for some women. Although this form of diabetes usually disappears after the birth of the baby, women who have had gestational diabetes have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Gestational Diabetes develops in About 3 to 8 percent of pregnant women. Managing gestational diabetes is very important in order to protect both mother and baby. Babies born to mothers with uncontrolled gestational diabetes can be overly large at birth, making delivery more dangerous. Gestational diabetes occurs more frequently in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and people with a family history of diabetes than in other groups. Obesity is also associated with higher risk.
Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing complications from diabetes. The following symptoms of diabetes are typical. However, people may have all, some or none of these symptoms. Common symptoms of diabetes are:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme hunger
- Sudden vision changes
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Feeling very tired much of the time
- Very dry skin
- Sores that are slow to heal
- More infections than usual.
People with diabetes should see a health care provider who will monitor their glucose levels and help them learn to take responsibility for day-to-day living. The A1C test tells your health care provider what your blood glucose control was like over the last three months. It is the best way for you and your doctor to measure how well you are managing your diabetes.
- An A1C test is not the same as the finger stick test you do with your own meter. A finger stick only shows how much sugar is in your blood at the time you do the test.
- The A1C number shows the amount of glucose in your red blood cells. Glucose stays on the red blood cells until the cells die. Cells are replaced by new cells every two to three months. High blood sugar levels cause more glucose to attach to the red blood cells. Keeping your blood sugars as low as safely possible will lower your A1C number.
Most people with diabetes should have an A1C below 7. The lower the better. Ask your doctor to help you set an A1C goal that is right for you. The right A1C number for you is based on your:
- Ability to recognize low blood sugars
- Ability to follow meal plans
- Ability to follow a daily routine
If you have type 1 diabetes, you need insulin shots because the body does not produce any insulin of its own. If you have type 2 diabetes, there are many kinds of medicines to help keep your blood sugar and A1C at safe levels. Each type of medicine will work in one of the following ways to help lower your A1C:
- Add insulin when your body makes too little insulin or none at all
- Cause the body to make more insulin;
- Cause less sugar to be made by your liver; or
- Make the body’s insulin work better by reducing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance stops sugar from getting into your cells.
If you have type 2 diabetes, your diabetes may get worse over time. At some point, your body may not make enough insulin, even with your medicines. If that happens, oral medicines are not enough and insulin shots are needed.
High A1C numbers mean that damage is being done to your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. The result may be a heart attack, stroke, blindness, amputation, or the need for kidney dialysis.
- The American Diabetes Association (ADA), www.diabetes.org
- American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), www.diabeteseducator.org
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), jdrf.org
- Living Well with Chronic Conditions, also known as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), www.cdc.gov/diabetes
- A1C Brochure/English (PDF)
- A1C Brochure/Spanish (PDF)
- Tobacco Brochure/Spanish (PDF)
- Tobacco Brochure/English (PDF)
- What is Diabetes (PDF)
- Is Your Diabetes Control on Target?/English (PDF)
- Is Your Diabetes Control on Target?/Spanish (PDF)
- Diabetes Doesn't Stop Me (PDF)
- Hispanics Are at a High Risk (PDF)
- Report of Eye Exam (PDF)
- Diabetes Goal Tracker Mobile App (iPhone, iPad or Android)