More than 23 million Americans have diabetes, but almost 25 percent of those who have the disease have never been diagnosed. Here’s some important information to help you understand more about this widespread medical condition.
Simply put, diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar levels are too high. For some reason, the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin, the hormone which converts sugars found in food into glucose, which your body uses for energy. Eventually diabetes can affect the eyes (causing blindness), heart, kidneys, legs and feet.
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin and is usually detected during childhood or adolescence. With Type 2 diabetes, which usually occurs in adults, the body makes some insulin but can’t use it properly or doesn’t make enough. Most people with Type 2 can control their diabetes through a healthy program of weight loss, diet and exercise.
The symptoms of diabetes vary from person to person. Some of the most common are:
- Frequent urination (especially at night)
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite
- Feeling weak and tired
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurry vision
- Tingling or numbing sensation in the hands and feet
In addition, there are several risk factors that can make you more likely to have diabetes. These include having a high blood pressure and/or cholesterol level, being overweight and not getting enough exercise. People with a family history of Type 2 diabetes are also at greater risk, as are Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans.
Either of two simple tests can be used to check for diabetes: a Fasting Plasma Glucose Test or an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test. It can take up to 10 years before serious complications arise from diabetes, so don’t wait to take action. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of diabetes, have a family history or know of other risk factors, talk to your personal physician about conducting one of these tests.