“Doctor, I think I have diabetes,” are some of the words many doctors dislike hearing because the ramifications of this disease are far reaching and affect the whole family.
Approximately 26 million people in America have this disease, and a majority have uncontrolled blood sugars, with more diagnosed every day. This disease is more than just a high level of sugar in the body. It’s a life changing disease that affects most of the body.
What type of person normally gets type 2 diabetes?
• Forty-five years old is the average age, but it is decreasing with more children being diagnosed every year.
• While type 1 diabetes is not inheritable, there is a strong familial correlation in type 2 diabetes.
• Persons who live a sedentary lifestyle.
• Most people with the disease are overweight and obese, which leads to insulin insensitivity.
• People who have abnormal cholesterol levels in the blood, which can stem from diet or genetic sources.
• Hypertension or high blood pressure is another problem most diabetics face.
• Some racial or ethnic groups have a higher probability of becoming diabetic.
What are the symptoms of someone who is developing or has diabetes?
• Dry mouth and thirst: This stems from the fact that high blood sugar causes the body to become dehydrated.
• Nausea and vomiting: This usually occurs when the blood sugar is excessively high and a person is approaching blood sugar levels that are not compatible with life.
• Frequent infections: High blood sugar along with a normal physiological temperature of the body is an excellent breathing ground for viruses, bacteria and fungus.
• Decreased feeling in the extremities: This is usually a late finding after having had the disease for many years.
• Frequent urination: At blood sugar levels around 200 mg/dL, the kidney is no longer able to filter all of the glucose and keep it in the body. It starts to overflow into the urine taking water with it.
• Depression with altered mental status: This is usually a sign of hyperosmolar nonketotic diabetic coma, which is an excessively high blood sugar with extreme dehydration and possible death.
How does a doctor diagnose diabetes?
• Fasting blood glucose: A blood test taken after a person has not eaten for eight hours.
• Glucose tolerance test: A blood test taken over the course of multiple hours after drinking a beverage with high sugar content.
• Hemoglobin A1c: A test that allows the doctor to estimate the average blood sugar for the past three months.
The pancreas continues to make and produce insulin in type 2 diabetes, but the body has difficulty getting the sugar into the cells. This high blood sugar causes damages to the small blood vessels throughout the body. Some of the most affected areas are the eyes, kidneys and heart. This leads to blindness in some cases, as well as kidney failure and heart attacks. The heart attack does not always appear like a normal heart attack because of damaged nerves in which the chest pain is not felt physically. Most people fear being on dialysis for the rest of their life, but far worse is going blind or slowly losing feeling and function of your limbs and eventually have them surgically removed.
Physicians are all committed to avoiding these dreaded complications. However, without proper diet, exercise and medication compliance, it is very difficult to control this disease and its outcome.
Mark Jorgensen is a family practice physician at Oquirrh Family Medicine in Tooele. Oquirrh Family Practice offers comprehensive care, from routine and preventive health services to chronic disease management, diagnostic testing and minor surgery.