Just Diagnosed with Diabetes? Worried You May Have the Disease? Here are Answers to Some of Your Questions . . .
Q: What are some of the problems I might experience and what I should do about them?
A: Typical symptoms of high blood sugar include extreme thirst, frequent urination, and feeling tired all the time. You might also have dry, itchy skin or blurred vision. If you have a family history of diabetes, you should be tested at your annual physical. Sometimes, catching blood sugar elevations in the early stages can give you the opportunity to make some healthful lifestyle changes and prevent being diagnosed with diabetes. But, if you think you have symptoms of diabetes, please see your primary care physician and have your blood sugar tested.
Q: Are there different types of diabetes?
A: There are two main types of diabetes. In Type 1, an individual’s pancreas is not producing insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, the individual’s pancreas still produces insulin, but the cells are not using the insulin effectively. Another type of the disease, gestational diabetes, develops during pregnancy because of hormones that are secreted to maintain the pregnancy. These hormones work against the body’s natural insulin and the blood sugar elevates. This type of diabetes goes away after the baby is born. However, the mother remains at increased risk for developing diabetes later in life.
Q: I’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes and I was too embarrassed to ask my doctor to really explain what this disease is. Can you tell me more about the disease?
A: If you have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes your pancreas is not able to produce the hormone, insulin, which is needed to control your blood sugar. You’ll need to take insulin every day. Currently, insulin is only given by injection. You’ll also need to follow a meal plan, exercise and test your blood sugar.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes your body still produces insulin, but it can’t use the insulin effectively. This is known as insulin resistance, and in its initial stages your pancreas is still producing insulin, but over time the amount produced will decrease. With Type 2 diabetes you can be treated with diet, exercise, oral medications, and sometimes insulin. You will also need to test your blood sugar.
Q: My doctor is starting me on medication. Is that all I have to do to control my diabetes?
A: No. Medication helps, but if you have diabetes you still need to manage your food intake to create a balance between medication, food, and activity. You also need to test your blood sugar level one or more times a day to ensure your treatment plan is working. Diabetes is a self-managed disease. In other words, if you have it you must know as much as possible about diabetes so you can control your blood sugar and protect your health.
Q: My doctor said I’ll need to see a couple of different types of specialists to control my diabetes and handle some of the problems that come along with the disease. What kinds of specialists will I need to see and why?
A: There are four main types of doctors that people with diabetes typically consult, including endocrinologists, ophthalmologists or optometrists and podiatrists. Endocrinologists specialize in caring for those with diseases of the organs or glands that secrete hormones- like insulin. Problems with the vision and the eyes can result from poor blood sugar control, so people with diabetes may also consult ophthalmologists or optometrists. Both types of eye doctors can examine, diagnose and treat eye diseases, but only the ophthalmologist can perform surgical procedures on the eye. Finally, many people with diabetes experience problems with their feet and toes, for which they consult a podiatrist, who specializes in problems of the feet.
Q: Is a cure for diabetes on the horizon?
A: Though there is currently no cure for diabetes, a great deal of research is being performed all over the world. For now, the medical community is emphasizing the need to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes in people by emphasizing good nutrition, physical activity and healthy weight.
Q: Where can I obtain more information on diabetes and associated problems?
A: Visit your public library or go online to the American Diabetes Association where you can request a diabetes information packet.
Q: What kinds of services does St. Elizabeth offer for people with diabetes?
A: St. Elizabeth Healthcare has an American Diabetes Association-recognized education program. The program offers various group classes, a gestational diabetes class and individual sessions – all at various times and days. Most insurance plans cover all or part of the charge for these classes. St. Elizabeth also offers a free Diabetes Self Management Group that meets six times per year. Call (859) 301-2466 for more information.
Q: Can I do anything to prevent diabetes?
A: Yes, try to achieve a healthful weight, stay physically active and eat a nutritious diet.
Q: If the disease runs in my family, am I sure to get it?
A: You’re at an increased risk of getting the disease. However, if you strive to maintain your recommended body weight, eat a healthful diet and stay physically active, you can quite often delay or even completely prevent the onset of diabetes.
Q: Is there a particular kind of diet that can help fight diabetes?
A: Generally, you should avoid fad diets and steer yourself instead toward eating well-balanced meals, which include fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lower-fat meats and healthy fats.
Q: I hate to exercise. Can I just eat right and skip the exercise to avoid diabetes?
A: Sorry, no. Exercise is vital. It not only helps to keep your weight down, but it also assists your body in the maximum utilization of the foods you eat. But, remember that exercise is not just that hour of sweating at the gym. It’s also all the movement you do throughout the day that can be tremendously beneficial, so look for ways to walk and move more throughout your everyday activities.
Q: But there’s medicine to treat diabetes now. So is it really that big a deal if you get it?
A: It is a big deal if you get any chronic disease. In fact, with diabetes medication is not the answer or the sole treatment. Those with diabetes still must eat healthfully, test their blood sugar regularly and exercise.
Q: My friend says she has pre-diabetes. What’s that? Is she doomed to get full-blown diabetes?
A: Pre-diabetes means that your blood sugar is not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. However, if those with pre-diabetes fail to make lifestyle changes, they are at increased risk of developing “full-blown” or Type 2 diabetes.