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Basic Facts on Diabetes

By Griffin Hospital on 11/4/2015

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to properly use and store glucose (a form of sugar). Glucose backs up in the bloodstream, causing a person’s blood glucose (sometimes referred to as blood sugar) to reach dangerous levels and increasing the chances for serious health complications, including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

There are two major types of diabetes:

  1. Type 1 diabetes (accounting for 5 -10% of people who have diabetes) means the body's immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, eventually eliminating insulin production from the body. Without insulin, cells cannot absorb sugar (glucose), which they need to produce energy.
  2. Type 2 diabetes most commonly becomes apparent during adulthood and accounts for the vast majority of people who have diabetes. With Type 2 diabetes, the body isn't able to use insulin the right way. This is called insulin resistance. As Type 2 diabetes gets worse, the pancreas may make less and less insulin. This is called insulin deficiency.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry - even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss - even though you are eating more (Type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (Type 2)

In some cases of Type 2 diabetes, there are no symptoms. In this case, people can live for months, even years without knowing they have the disease. This form of diabetes comes on so gradually that symptoms may not even be recognized.

Who gets diabetes?

Diabetes can occur in anyone. However, people who have close relatives with the disease are slightly more likely to develop it. Other risk factors include obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity. The risk of developing diabetes also increases as people grow older.

Can diabetes be prevented?

Recent studies have shown that lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes in individuals who are at high risk of getting the disease. Modest weight loss (5-10% of body weight) and modest physical activity (30 minutes a day) are recommended goals. Lifestyle change programs, such as Griffin Hospital’s Wellness For Life, provides individuals with the education and expert support to improve their fitness, nutrition and overall well-being to help prevent many chronic conditions like diabetes. Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes. If you think you may be at risk, contact your physician to schedule a Blood Glucose Test (or A1C).

What support is available for individuals with diabetes?

Griffin Hospital regularly hosts The Live Well Diabetes Self-Management Workshop to empower individuals diagnosed with diabetes to take control of the health condition and get control of their lives. This free, six-week program focuses on several topics for those with diabetes, including what to eat, foot care, low and high blood sugar, sick day guidelines, tips for dealing with stress, and how to set small and achievable goals. Click here to learn about upcoming workshops or call Certified Diabetes Educator Mary Swansiger, BSN, MPH, at 203-732-1137.
The Diabetes Education & Support Group at Griffin Hospital helps individuals with diabetes and their caregivers learn how to prevent diabetes and reduce its side effects as well as offering encouragement from those living with diabetes. Click here for more information or call Mary Swansiger, BSN, MPH, at 203-732-1137.

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