More than 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and 1 in 3 adults in the US have metabolic syndrome. While these conditions are common and related to each other, they’re not always well understood. Let’s break it down to the basics.
As your body digests food, the carbohydrates you consume get converted into a type of fuel called either blood glucose or blood sugar. Cells can only use this fuel when it’s brought inside them by a hormone called insulin. If there’s not enough insulin, or if the cells don’t respond to the insulin, then they can’t access the blood glucose to use it. It then builds up in the blood where it can damage blood vessels. If blood sugar levels are high enough, this becomes diabetes. Diabetes is dangerous because it increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, erectile dysfunction, nerve issues, and wounds that won’t heal.
Before someone develops Type 2 diabetes, they almost always go through a time when they have prediabetes. This means that their blood sugar is elevated, but not high enough for a diagnosis of full-blown diabetes. The bad news: because there aren’t obvious symptoms, it’s possible to have prediabetes and never know it. The good news: early treatment and moderate lifestyle changes can derail diabetes and get blood sugar levels back into a healthy range!
This is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, and about 1 in 10 pregnancies are affected. It can be caused by pregnancy hormones making the mother’s body resistant to insulin or if the mother’s body isn’t able to make/use the insulin it needs. Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy, having a large baby that needs to be delivered by C-section, or causing the baby to be born too early. It can also make Type 2 diabetes more likely later for both mother and baby.
Type 1 Diabetes
In this type of diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin. For reasons that are still being studied, something happens (genetic susceptibility, viral infection, autoimmune response, etc.), and then the cells that make insulin are destroyed. This type of diabetes can strike at any age, and unfortunately, there’s nothing proactive that can be done to prevent it.
Type 2 Diabetes
The most common form of diabetes, about 37 million people in the US have this type, but 1 in 5 don’t realize it. Being undiagnosed or untreated puts someone at a greater risk of developing complications. Common indicators are:
- Increased hunger, thirst, fatigue, urination, or infections
- Very dry skin
- Tingling in hands or feet
Less common indicators are:
- Chronic yeast infections
- Blurred vision
- Sexual dysfunction
- Nausea or constipation
- Slow healing wounds
- Skin tags
- Mood changes
- Unexplained weight loss
- Dark patches of skin on the neck, armpits, or groin
- Excess facial hair or acne
If you have any of these symptoms, or if you...
- Are overweight
- Are 45 years or older
- Have a sibling or parent with diabetes
- Are sedentary
- Have had gestational diabetes
...it’s a good idea to get screened for diabetes. Your primary care provider can do that with a simple blood test.
Regardless of the type, the treatments for all forms of diabetes are similar: a few tweaks to the diet, increasing the amount of physical activity, and perhaps medication. Small changes can make a big difference! The folks at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic are here to help - just call 218-387-2330 for an appointment with your provider.