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Diabetes: What you need to know

Friday, August 08, 2014

Diabetes: What you need to know

by Jennifer Barbin, MD

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that results in prolonged levels of elevated blood sugar in your system.  In 2012, the American Diabetes Association estimated that 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population, had diabetes.  Diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

What are the different types of diabetes?

 There are several types of diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is the most common and accounts for 90 percent of all diagnosed cases.  Type 2 is characterized initially with insulin resistance, where the body doesn’t respond to insulin correctly or the body doesn’t produce enough insulin.  Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.

 The primary cause of Type 2 diabetes is excess weight coupled with a lack of exercise.  It’s more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian American/Pacific Islanders, as well as the senior population.

 Type I diabetes, previously known as insulin dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed earlier in life.  In Type I diabetes, the body fails to produce any insulin.  With insulin replacement therapy and other treatments, children and adults can learn to manage their condition.

 Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is present with pregnancy.  If patients develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, that doesn’t necessarily mean they had diabetes before or that they will have diabetes after giving birth.

 There are also patients who are diagnosed with impaired glucose tolerance, and these patients are also at risk for developing diabetes.

 What are the symptoms of diabetes?

 Of the estimated 29 million Americans with diabetes, it’s thought that almost 8.1 million are undiagnosed.  This may be because patients can, at first, have no symptoms and show no signs of the disease.  However, in some cases, symptoms such as persistent thirst, uncontrollable hunger and frequency in urination may be present.  Symptoms also include weight gain or weight loss, fatigue, recurrent infections like yeast infections, neuropathy (numbness of extremities), and blurred vision.

 Can diabetes be treated?

 Yes, and the earlier it’s diagnosed, the more diabetes complications a patient may avoid.  It’s important that you follow up with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms or are at risk for diabetes.  If you’re at risk for diabetes, you can find out through routine blood work.

 Without proper treatment, diabetes can affect the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.  Depending on your type of diabetes, how severe it is and how early it’s caught, treatment can consist of a change in lifestyle coupled with oral medications or insulin therapy.

 See your doctor at the first sign of trouble.

 Jennifer Barbin, MD, is an internal medicine physician who is employed at the Sullivan Medical Clinic.  She has been on the staff at Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital since 2008 and is a member of the BJC Medical Group.  She also was a recipient of the Professional Research Consultants, Inc. 2013 Five-Star Excellence Award for Provider-Internal Medicine Services Overall Quality of Doctor Care.  Please call 573-860-6000 if you would like to schedule an appointment to see Dr. Barbin.

 
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