Planning for appointments and prescriptions benefits you
By: Jessica Woodward M.D.
The statistics are daunting. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than nine percent of people in the U.S (or about one person in 11), have the disease with more than a quarter of those undiagnosed and unaware they even have it. Another 86 million people (more than one in three) have a precondition of the disease, but because symptoms are minor or nonexistent, 90 percent of these people don’t know it. Treatments are available, but there is no cure for This disease with potentially-fatal complications. What are we referring to? It’s the disease known as diabetes.
Diabetes is a range of diseases that involve problems with the way the body processes insulin, which is a hormone that helps cells make energy. When you eat or drink, much of the food is broken down into the simple sugar, glucose. Glucose travels in the bloodstream to the cells in the body. The cells absorb the glucose and convert it to energy.
Insulin is released from the pancreas and also enters the bloodstream. It regulates how much glucose is in the bloodstream. When you eat, glucose levels in the bloodstream rise and insulin reacts by pushing the glucose into cells, creating the energy your body needs to function while keeping glucose levels in the bloodstream in check.
Diabetes occurs when problems arise with this balance of how much glucose is in the bloodstream.In general there are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Historically it was the type of diabetes that affected children. Of adult diagnoses, type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately five percent of cases.
Type 2 diabetes happens when the body is unable to use insulin properly. It used to be thought of as adult-onset diabetes, but more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, due in large part to the problem of childhood obesity.
Certain risk factors make it more likely that you will develop diabetes. Some of these you can change, others you cannot. Some that you cannot control are: age – those 45 and older are at increased risk; genetics – diabetes tends to run in families; and ethnicity – American-American, Alaska Native, Native American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Latino and Pacific Islander-Americans are all at increased risk.
Other risk factors are related to daily habits and lifestyle. These are things you can change. Exercise can decrease your risk, as can getting the right amount of sleep (not too little or too much). Smoking and stress increase risk.
Finally, there are risk factors related to your medical history that can increase your risk: pre-diabetes, heart disease, blood vessel disease, high blood pressure, low HDL (good cholesterol), high triglycerides, being overweight or obese, history of gestational diabetes, depression, a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes occur suddenly and can be severe. Type 2 diabetes may present with little or no symptoms at all. However when symptoms are present with type 2 diabetes, they are similar to those of type 1 and include:
• Increased thirst and dry mouth
• Frequent urination
• Increased hunger, especially after eating
• Unexplained weight loss
• Feeling weak and tired
• Blurred vision
• Labored breathing
Additional symptoms that may occur with type 2 diabetes are:
• Slow-healing cuts or abrasions
• Itching – often in the groin or vaginal area
• Yeast infections
• Weight gain
• Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
Diabetes has no cure, but it can be managed with monitoring and lifestyle choices. What you do at home every day affects your blood sugar and you are key to your own success. Plan for healthy meals and snacks. Don’t go long periods without eating or your blood sugar could plummet. Exercise regularly. Shoot for 30 minutes a day at least five days per week. Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly and as prescribed by your doctor. If prescribed, take medications and insulin according to directions.
If you use insulin or another medication to treat your diabetes, make sure you request prescription refills before you have run out. It is important to keep a steady supply of your medication in your system. Give your physician ample time to renew prescriptions by making renewal requests when you still have at least a week’s worth of medication remaining.
It’s also important to keep appointments with your health care provider and have laboratory tests – including a diabetic recheck – as often as recommended.
Managing diabetes is vitally important to a positive outcome. Over time, he disease can lead to damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, circulation resulting in amputation, nervous system and teeth and gums.
Diabetes is a serious illness with no known cure. But it can be managed when you work with your doctor to create healthy daily lifestyle habits and monitor glucose levels as instructed. Like the statistics, diabetes can seem daunting. Try to dwell on the things in your control and work to make gradual, lasting changes to make your outcome with diabetes as positive as possible.
Dr. Woodward is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic in Cloquet.