Diabetes affects over 30 million people—and that number is growing every day, edging closer and closer to 10% of the U.S. population. Even more startling, nearly 1 in 4 adults have diabetes and don’t know it. Even more adults are prediabetic and unaware. Could you be one of them?
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose (sugar) is too high. That’s an indication that the body isn’t producing or using insulin properly. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is what turns glucose into energy to power the body’s functions.
You’ve probably heard that there are different types of diabetes. Type 1 is often diagnosed early in life, but it can appear at any age. It’s a condition where the body doesn’t make any insulin at all, because the immune system attacks the pancreas cells that make it. People with Type 1 need insulin daily to stay alive—no surprise it tends to get diagnosed early!
Type 2 is more common. Like Type 1, it can appear at any age but tends to occur most often in people over 45. In this case, the body isn’t creating or using insulin very well. Sadly, Type 2 diabetes used to be practically unheard of in people under 30, but rates have skyrocketed over the past two decades to make it one of the most common chronic conditions in school-aged children.
There are other types as well, including gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy. While this type tends to go away when the baby is born, it puts you at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later.
Another 84 million Americans have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are above normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed. Talk about surprising statistics: 9 out of 10 adults with prediabetes don’t know they have it. That’s because it has virtually no symptoms.
Symptoms of Diabetes
High blood glucose will cause the same symptoms, regardless of the type of diabetes. The difference is onset: Type 1 diabetes tends to be more sudden and dramatic at onset, while with Type 2, these problems may develop more slowly over time as the body’s ability to deal with insulin decreases. Symptoms include:
- increased thirst and urination
- increased hunger
- extreme fatigue
- blurred vision
- numbness or tingling in the feet or hands (Type 2)
- sores and bruises that do not heal
- unexplained weight loss, even when eating more (Type 1)
These symptoms often go unnoticed, and some people with Type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all. They don’t know they have the disease until a more serious health problem—like kidney or heart disease, or even a COVID-19 diagnosis—occurs.
Diabetics and COVID-19
People with diabetes have been hit especially hard by the Coronavirus epidemic. It’s harder to treat viral infections in people with diabetes due to fluctuations in blood sugar and the presence of health complications. It’s also thought that the virus may thrive in an environment of elevated blood glucose. All this means that people with diabetes at a greater risk of more severe reactions and longer recovery periods. Adding insult to injury, fear of catching the virus is also keeping many diabetics indoors and more isolated, making their disease harder to manage.
Play Diabetes Detective
Outcomes—both from COVID-19 and in general—are worse for people with poorly controlled diabetes. That means that the key to fighting back is education and awareness. You’re already taking the first step right now by reading this article! You can take a risk assessment online in just 60 seconds, and your doctor can assess blood glucose with a simple blood test. Many mass retailers will administer a blood sugar test, as do all QueensCare locations. If you have risk factors, get tested at least every three years even if you do not have the condition.
A Healthier Life
Having risk factors for diabetes (such as family history, over 45, obesity, and lack of physical activity), being diagnosed as prediabetic or diabetic doesn’t need to derail your life. Reducing the sugar and salt in your diet, exercising regularly, taking prescribed medication and monitoring your blood sugar manages diabetes and can even reverse prediabetes. Small changes can make a big difference in how your body responds to insulin, and it doesn’t have to be painful. Try out some new plant-based recipes with your family or take a walk around the block with a friend (six feet apart, of course!). Get curious about how your blood sugar responds to different conditions, such as a workout or certain foods or medicines. Be vigilant about adhering to virus precautions like wearing a mask, physical distancing and hand washing.
If you care for a child or youth with diabetes, you can help them make a self-care plan as well. And know that you’re in good company—National Diabetes Month 2020 is focused on supporting youth with diabetes! Let your child help make a go-anywhere emergency kit that includes a week’s worth of medical supplies (such as insulin), a medication list, and healthcare contact list. Don’t forget to include face coverings, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes in your kit during the current pandemic.
Whatever you choose to do, get support from your QueensCare Health Centers Doctors and Pharmacy professionals —they’re in your corner to support a long and healthy life.
To schedule a blood glucose test or to discuss our diabetes care program with one of our Doctors and Pharmacists, please call (323) 635-1140.