Nearly 26 million Americans suffer from diabetes; that is over 8% of the country's population. Whilst the disease is treatable, in many cases symptoms will remain throughout a person's entire life. However, with a consistent treatment plan, many sufferers can lead lives relatively unaffected by the condition. What concerns many health professionals, however, is that of the 26 million people who are afflicted by diabetes, approximately 7 million have not had the condition diagnosed; it is only after a diagnosis is made that treatment can begin.
When thinking about diabetes, many people believe the condition to be primarily associated with overweight or otherwise unhealthy individuals. Whilst this can be true (a poor-quality diet, leading to obesity is one of the primary risk factors with type 2 diabetes), the condition can affect anyone. If it is diagnosed early and a course of treatment started, the associated risks are reduced. If not, complications can lead to a multitude of other health problems.
General symptoms of the condition include feeling unexplainable fatigue, needing to urinate frequently, having an increased thirst and an increased appetite. This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, but these are the major 'visible' symptoms. Those people who are experiencing such symptoms such have a diabetes test. This is especially true for people in groups more prone to the condition: People who are obese, those with poor diets, those who do little to no exercise, people with high blood pressure or cholesterol and pregnant women (although a doctor will generally insist upon a diabetes test for all pregnant women, regardless of whether symptoms are apparent or not). Additionally people who have a family history of the condition should take extra care, whilst those of South Asian, African, Africa-Caribbean, Native American and Hispanic origins have a greater chance of developing the condition, so should look out for the symptoms.
If a person believes they could have developed the condition, there is little reason not to be tested. The test is extremely quick and inexpensive; it is, in fact, so noninvasive that many pharmacies now offer this as a service at little or no cost. The test involves having the patient abstain from food and drink (except water) for four to five hours. One drop of blood will be taken (usually from a fingertip) and a machine analyzes the blood sugar volume to check for risk-factor levels of sugar.
If diagnosed, the condition will fall under one of three categories: Type 1, Type 2 or gestational diabetes. Type 1 and 2 are the 'standard' forms of the disease, which can affect anybody. Gestational diabetes only affects pregnant women.
Type 1 is the less common form of diabetes. It is caused by permanent damage to the cells in the pancreas, which means that the body can no longer produce its own supply of insulin. Although lifestyle plays a part in limiting the symptoms after the condition has developed, it is thought that diet and exercise play no role in the development of type 1 diabetes. The condition appears in most suffers following a virus or similar event, where the body's immune response has been stimulated. The immune system causes the damage to the pancreas, which leads to the necessity of life-long treatment. This treatment will generally involve multiple daily insulin injections, as well as a fairly rigid diet and exercise plan.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces too little insulin, or if the insulin it does produce is ineffectively absorbed in the body. It can generally be treated solely with a diet and exercise plan. However, the patient and their doctor must keep a regular check on blood sugar levels; if the condition worsens, medication, including on rare occasion insulin injections, can be prescribed.
Gestational diabetes is caused when changing hormonal levels during pregnancy cause the body to resist insulin. It occurs in up to 5% of pregnancies, and it is usually controlled with diet and moderate exercise; in the majority of cases, it disappears after the baby is born.
If you are diagnosed, there is a wealth of information to learn about diabetes. The more informed you are, the more likely you are to be able to control the condition properly. It can be frightening, and the treatment process is often lifelong. However, by taking care of your body, and properly administering any necessary medications, the effects of the condition can be significantly reduced; it is very possible to lead a mostly unaffected life.