November is Diabetes Awareness Month. I had the pleasure of hosting Lightbeam’s Clinical Transformation Advisor, Jessica Scruton, on an episode of the Population Health Podcast discussing this chronic condition. Her experience as a nurse and witnessing diabetes mismanagement stirs a desire to educate patients on essential health topics whenever she can. Be sure to listen to the episode to hear more tips and firsthand experiences from Jessica on diabetes management.
Types of Diabetes
There are four different types of diabetes: type 1 (or juvenile diabetes), type 2 (or adult onset diabetes), gestational diabetes, and prediabetes. Each is slightly different, but all forms of untreated diabetes can cause complications.
While type 1 is commonly found in children, adults can also develop this form. According to the American Diabetes Association, in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, a person is born with a predisposition for the disease, and development occurs based on a trigger in their environment. People with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin; people with type 2 diabetes do but need help regulating their blood sugar by taking insulin or other medications. Gestational diabetes is a pregnancy-related condition that typically goes away after delivery, but women who develop gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 later in life. Type 1 and type 2 cannot be cured, though type 2 can be reversed if managed appropriately. “Reversed” means that a person does not have to take insulin as often or continually monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Prediabetes is more of a “status.” It indicates that an individual has high blood sugar that is not yet in the diabetic range, but unless they take control of their diet and activity, there will likely be a diagnosis of type 2. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90% of people do not know they have prediabetes. The A1C blood test is used to identify prediabetes as well as monitor existing diabetes.
Symptoms of Diabetes in Adults and Children
There are symptoms of diabetes to look out for in both adults and children, especially with any family history. The following information comes from the American Diabetes Foundation. The first symptom is that a person feels like they cannot get enough water; they feel thirsty often and urinate more frequently as a result. Along with the feeling of dehydration, a person with diabetes can often feel unusually hungry, even if they have had plenty to eat or are in the midst of eating. With type 1, though, a person is still losing weight; type 2 diabetes occurs more often in individuals carrying extra weight. A symptom exclusive to type 2, however, is tingling or numb hands and feet. Blurry vision can be a symptom of both types, as well as fatigue and wounds that are slow to heal.
What to Do Next
Prioritizing well-balanced meals, avoiding excess carbohydrates and sugar, exercising regularly, and staying on top of medications and insulin is critical for individuals with any type of diabetes. It is essential to maintain a healthy weight; portion control and knowing why and how frequently one eats can help identify emotional eating and other roadblocks to weight loss in individuals with type 2. Peoples with type 1 diabetes need to be mindful of their blood sugar levels and synchronize their workout schedule to when they eat, as vigorous exercise can lead to extremely low blood sugar.
Diabetes can be dangerous, but there is no reason to believe that it cannot be mitigated with the right steps. To hear more from myself and our resident nurse, listen to the Population Health Podcast episode for Diabetes Awareness Month, releasing on November 21st.
Laurel Derr is the Marketing & Event Coordinator at Lightbeam.