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About Diabetes

Symptoms of Diabetes 

People with diabetes frequently experience certain symptoms that include: 

  • Extreme thirst 
  • Frequent urination 
  • Weight loss 
  • Increased hunger 
  • Blurry vision 
  • Irritability 
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet 
  • Frequent skin, bladder or gum infections 
  • Wounds that don't heal 
  • Extreme unexplained fatigue 

Note that in some cases, there are no symptoms. 

Who is at Risk for Diabetes? 

Diabetes can occur in anyone. Major risk factors include: 

  • Obesity 
  • High cholesterol 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Physical inactivity 
  • Heredity: People who have close relatives with the disease are somewhat more likely to develop it. 
  • Age: The risk of developing diabetes also increases as people grow older. People who are over 40 and overweight are more likely to develop diabetes, although the incidence of type 2 diabetes in adolescents is growing. 
  • Ethnicity: Diabetes is more common among Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders. 
  • Pregnancy: Women who develop diabetes while pregnant (a condition called gestational diabetes) are more likely to develop full-blown diabetes later in life. 

Treating Diabetes 

There are certain things that everyone who has diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, needs to do to be healthy.

Managing Diabetes Through Lifestyle Changes  

Diabetes patients need to learn how to monitor their blood glucose. Daily testing will help determine how well their meal plan, activity plan, and medication are working to keep blood glucose levels in a normal range. 

Diabetes patients need to have a meal (nutrition) plan. 

Diabetes patients need to pay attention to their physical activity level. Physical activity can help the body use insulin better so it can convert glucose into energy for cells. 

Diabetes patients with type 1 diabetes, and some with type 2 diabetes, also need to take insulin injections. 

Some diabetes patients with type 2 diabetes take pills called "oral agents" which help their bodies produce more insulin and/or use the insulin it is producing better. 

Some diabetes patients with type 2 diabetes can manage their disease without medication by appropriate meal planning and adequate physical activity. 

Clinical Management of Diabetes

Diabetes patients should be seen at least once every six months by a diabetes specialist (an endocrinologist or a diabetologist). He or she should also be seen periodically by other members of a diabetes treatment team, including a diabetes nurse educator and a dietitian who will help develop a meal plan for the individual. 

Ideally, diabetes patients should also see an exercise physiologist for help in developing a physical activity plan, and perhaps, a social worker, psychologist or other mental health professional for help with the stresses and challenges of living with a chronic disease. 

Diabetes patients should have regular eye exams (once a year) by an ophthalmologist to make sure that any eye problems associated with diabetes are caught early and treated before they become serious. 

What other health care problems can be caused by diabetes? 

Poorly managed diabetes can lead to a host of long-term complications: 

  • Heart attack 
  • Strokes 
  • Blindness 
  • Kidney failure 
  • Blood vessel disease that may require an amputation 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Impotence in men