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November: American Diabetes Month 


November is American Diabetes Month and a good time to learn more about this widespread disease. Estimates predict that one-third of American adults will have the disease in 2050 unless steps are taken to stop it now.


Other facts include:


  • Nearly 30 million children and adults in the U.S. have the disease.
  • An additional 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Individuals with the disease are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized for a heart attack or stroke.
  • The disease causes nearly 50 percent of kidney failure cases.
  • More than half of all amputations in adults occur in people with diabetes.
  • More than 500,000 American adults have advanced diabetic retinopathy, which increases the risk for severe vision loss.
  • Approximately 60-70 percent of people with the disease have some degree of nerve damage that could cause pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.


Some people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed and often remain undiagnosed until the condition worsens.


Common symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling hungry – even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Slow healing of cuts/bruises
  • Weight loss
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in hands/feet (type 2)


Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see their primary care physician right away.


About the disease:


Type 1: previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile-onset diabetes, usually occurs in the mid-teens, but can happen at any age. It develops when the beta cells that produce the hormone insulin in the pancreas are destroyed. This destruction is initiated by the body’s immune system and limits or eliminates the production and secretion of insulin, the hormone required to lower blood glucose levels. To survive, people who have this type must have insulin by injection or a pump. Adults make up approximately 5 percent of type 1 diabetes cases. There is no known way to prevent this type of the disease.


Type 2:  previously called non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes, usually occurs at a later age than type 1. In adults, this type accounts for about 90 percent to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases. Type 2 usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells primarily within the muscles, liver, and fat tissue do not use insulin properly. As the need for insulin rises, the beta cells in the pancreas lose the ability to produce sufficient quantities of the hormone. The role of insulin resistance as opposed to beta cell dysfunction differs — with some individuals having primarily insulin resistance and only a minor defect in insulin secretion, and others with slight insulin resistance and primarily a lack of insulin secretion.


Factors that play a part in the risk for developing type 2 diabetes include: Older age; obesity; family history of diabetes; history of gestational diabetes; impaired glucose metabolism; physical inactivity; and race/ethnicity. African- Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians, some Asians, and Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk.


Gestational:  usually diagnosed during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. During pregnancy, increasing blood glucose levels increase the risk for both mother and fetus and require treatment to reduce problems. Treatment may include diet, regular physical activity or insulin. After pregnancy, 5 percent to 10 percent of women who experienced the gestational form of the disease will continue to have high blood glucose levels. Risk factors are similar to those for type 2.


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