Why You Should Learn about Diabetes

Auntie Jeanette is the second oldest out of ten children. She is a loving mother, auntie, and daughter. She is well-respected in the community and is known for her outstanding cooking. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, she makes her famous collard greens with hamhocks, fried chicken, corn bread, and pasta salad. Everyone from all over would come just to eat her delicious food. Although this was very good food, it was not the healthiest choice. Consuming so much of these unhealthy foods will take a negative toll on your body, this was the case for Auntie Jeanette. As each day passed by, Auntie Jeanette would drink very often. It was to a point where she would drink a gallon of water a day. Then, she noticed that she was urinating more often than usual. She waited a couple of weeks to see if anything would change, it did not. She decided it was time to go to the doctor. That day, her life changed forever. Her family has a history of health problems, the main one is diabetes. The doctor ran tests and diagnosed her with type 2 diabetes. “In 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes” (“Overall Numbers, Diabetes and Prediabetes” American Diabetes Association 1).

One of the most common diseases in the United States is diabetes. Each day there are new discoveries and experiments to improve the treatments of it. There are two different types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. The most aggressive form is Type 1, it is when the body does not produce insulin and the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (“Type 1 Diabetes” American Diabetes Association 2). Type 2 is when the body does not produce insulin properly. This is the most common form of diabetes. The history of diabetes dates to Greek physicians Sushruta, Arataeus, and Thomas Willis. They prescribed exercise on horseback to help with frequent urination. “In 1776, Matthew Dobson confirmed that the sweet taste of urine of diabetics was due to excess of a kind of sugar in the urine and blood of people with diabetes” (“History of Diabetes” News Medical Life Sciences 4).

This was one of the first scientific and confirmed results of diabetes. “In 1910, English physiologist Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer’s study of the pancreas leads him to the discovery of a substance that would normally be produced in non-diabetics: insulin. The name comes from the Latin insula, meaning island, referencing the insulin-producing islets of Langerhans in the pancreas” (“History of Diabetes” American Diabetes Association 1). Statistics show that a non-diabetic person’s pancreas produces insulin correctly and the body uses it in the right way; however, this is not the case for everyone in the world. This causes them to have increased chances at developing some form of diabetes. Since there are so many people in the world with this disease, it is important to learn about the causes, symptoms, diagnostic tests, treatments, and prevention measures of this disease. What causes type 1 diabetes? This is a question that scientists have yet to find the answer to. The exact cause of this form of the disease is unknown. Although the exact cause is not known, scientists believe it could have something to do with a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors, such as viruses. It leaves you with almost no insulin in your body. Instead of being transported into your cells, the sugar builds up in your bloodstream (“Cause of Type 1 Diabetes” Mayo Clinic 9).

There are many causes for type 2 diabetes. One of the main ones is obesity. Excess weight sometimes causes the body to resist insulin and is common in people with type 2 diabetes (“Overweight, Obesity, and Physical Inactivity” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases 4). When dealing with the body, where the body fat is located makes a huge difference. Excess fat in your belly is linked to type 2 diabetes. Certain genes can also cause type 2 diabetes. The disease can sometimes run in the family and mainly affects African Americans, Alaska Natives, American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (“Genes and Family History” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases 6). “Compared to the general population, African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes” (“Treatment and Care for African Americans” American Diabetes Association 1). It has been confirmed that a person’s ethnicity could increase or decrease the chances of developing this disease. There are lower chances for Caucasian Americans to have diabetes. Many Americans may not know the symptoms of diabetes. Small things that seem normal, may be something that needs to be paid attention to. Two common symptoms are frequent urination and increased thirst. These two symptoms are commonly overlooked as being normal (“Diabetes Symptoms: When Diabetes Symptoms are a Concern” Mayo Clinic 4).

However, this could be a warning that there is something wrong with the body. “Polyuria occurs when your body urinates more frequently. Polyuria in diabetes occurs when you have excess levels of sugar in the blood” (“Polyuria and Type 1 Diabetes” Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation 4). This can lead to dehydration and eventually affect the function of the kidneys. By urinating frequently, the body is trying to get rid of the extra levels of sugar thus resulting in the urine having a “sweetness” to it. A common symptom for type 2 diabetes is a tingling pain or loss of feeling in the hands and/or feet. The cause of this is diabetic neuropathy. “Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur if you have diabetes. High blood sugar (glucose) can injure nerves throughout your body. Diabetic neuropathy most often damages nerves in your legs and feet” (“Overview” Mayo Clinic 1). It can range from numbness and pain in the feet and legs to problems in the digestive system. This includes the urinary tract, blood vessels, and heart. The pain is sometimes so severe, it can become disabling. There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, radiculoplexus neuropathy, and mononeuropathy. “Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy. It affects the feet and legs first, followed by the hands and arms” (“Peripheral Neuropathy” Mayo Clinic 5).

Symptoms of this type of neuropathy include: numbness or reduced ability to feel pain or temperature changes, tingling or burning sensation, sharp pains or cramps increased sensitivity to touch, and muscle weakness. These symptoms are worse at night. “The autonomic nervous system controls your heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs and eyes. Diabetes can affect nerves in any of these areas” (“Autonomic Neuropathy” Mayo Clinic 6). It can cause bladder problems, constipation, difficulty swallowing, and problems controlling body temperature. “Radiculoplexus neuropathy affects nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks or legs. It’s more common in people with type 2 diabetes and older adults” (“Radiculoplexus Neuropathy (Diabetic Amyotrophy)” Mayo Clinic 7). This form of neuropathy is often called femoral neuropathy or proximal neuropathy. The symptoms associated with this include: weakening and shrinking thigh muscles, difficulty getting up from a sitting position, and weight loss. Some of the symptoms usually affect only one side of the body unless it spreads to the other. Most people improve over time, some symptoms can become worse before it gets better. “Mononeuropathy, or focal neuropathy, is damage to a specific nerve in the face, middle of the body (torso) or leg. It’s most common in older adults” (“Mononeuropathy” Mayo Clinic 9).

The symptoms include: pain in shin or foot, lower back or pelvis, front of thigh, and chest or abdomen. Symptoms usually disperse without treatment after a few weeks or months. It does not cause any long-term problems. To determine if a patient has diabetes, a doctor will run special tests to evaluate his/her glucose levels. The three main types of tests that are used is the A1C test, Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT), and Random (Casual) Plasma Glucose Test. “The A1C test measures your average blood glucose for the past 2 to 3 months” (“A1C” American Diabetes Association 1). The benefit with this test is the patient does not have to fast or drink anything. The normal blood glucose levels are less than 5.7%. If the A1C results are greater than or equal to 6.5%, the diagnosis would be positive for diabetes. “The OGTT is a two-hour test that checks your blood glucose levels before and 2 hours after you drink a special sweet drink. It tells the doctor how your body processes glucose” (“Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (also called the OGTT)” American Diabetes Association 1).

The normal blood glucose levels are less than 140 mg/dl. When the 2-hour blood glucose levels are greater than or equal to 200 mg/dl, the results will be positive for diabetes. “The Random (Casual) Plasma Glucose Test is a blood check at any time of the day when you have severe diabetes symptoms” (“Random (also called Casual) Plasma Glucose Test” American Diabetes Association 1). Diabetes is diagnosed when the blood glucose levels are greater than or equal to 200 mg/dl. There are several other tests that are used to detect diabetes, but these are the most commonly used ones. Scientists have provided different treatment options for diabetes. There are several ones based on the severity of the case. A treatment for type 2 diabetes, at first, is meal planning, weight loss and exercise. “Sometimes these measures are not enough to bring blood glucose levels down near the normal range. The next step is taking a medicine that lowers blood glucose levels” (“Medication” American Diabetes Association 1). One type of treatment for diabetes is insulin. “Many people with diabetes are prescribed insulin, either because their bodies do not produce insulin (type 1 diabetes) or do not use insulin properly (type 2 diabetes)” (“Insulin and Other Injectables” American Diabetes Association 2). There are over 20 different types of insulin in the United States. They are made differently, work in the body in different ways, and have different costs. The doctor provides help to choose the right one that will fit the patient’s lifestyle and health needs. It is common to try pills before insulin, but there are a few factors that will result in using insulin first. Some of these factors are the overall health if the patient, how high the blood glucose levels are, and the type of other medicines the patient takes. Another type of treatment for diabetes is medication. “Some people with type 2 diabetes can manage their diabetes with healthy eating and exercise. However, your doctor may need to also prescribe oral medications (pills) and/or insulin to help you meet your target blood glucose levels” (“Medication “American Diabetes Association 2).

Sometimes this is not the case, only one type of treatment is used. There are ways to lower the risk and/or prevent this disease from happening. One way to do this is by managing weight. “Being overweight raises your risk for type 2 diabetes…If you are overweight, losing weight may help you prevent and manage these conditions” (“Your Weight and Risk American Disease Association 1). There does not have to be a dramatic weight loss. Losing between 10-15 pounds can make a difference and is a positive step towards a healthier lifestyle. Sometimes it is a challenge to lose weight and keep it off. There are certain things that have worked for other people such as, cutting back on calories, eating breakfast every day, and weighing themselves at least once per week. Another way to help lower the risk is physical activity. “Physical activity helps lower your blood glucose, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides and lowers your risk for prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke” (“What can Physical Activity do for Me?” American Diabetes Association 1).

There are ways to be physically active, even if someone has never exercised before. Those activities do not have to be strenuous; simple things can make a big difference. “A complete physical activity routine includes four kinds of activities: Continuous activity, aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises” (“What Kinds of Physical Activity are the Best?” American Diabetes Association 3). This includes using stairs, brisk walking, lifting light weights, and stretching. To lead a healthier lifestyle, one must be willing to make that change. “To succeed at making lifestyle changes you need to answer YES to the question, “Are you ready, willing, and able to change?” You must have better reasons to change than reasons not to change” (“Are You Ready, Willing, and Able to Change?” American Diabetes Association 1). A determined mindset is an important quality in accomplishing this. It is not an easy task, but it is worth doing. Taking what you want to do and breaking it down into smaller steps will make the process a little easier (“Are You Ready, Willing, and Able to Change?” American Diabetes Association 4). A perfect way to do this is by setting goals and making an action plan. “Setting “S.M.A.R.T.” goals can help you reach your health goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-specific.” (“Making an Action Plan” American Diabetes Association 8). S.M.A.R.T goals can help manage time and track progress. It is always best to focus on one goal at a time. The last step is looking at how to make a change. “Ask yourself these questions: Did I succeed? Did I set my sights too high? Did something happen in my life to keep me from being successful?” (“Did You Succeed” American Diabetes Association 12).If it was successful, it is always good to have rewards for a job well done. “Making a change for two weeks or a month does not mean that it will stick for life. It’s easy to slip back into old habits. Keep practicing your new habits. It may take time before they’re part of your daily life.” (“Did You Succeed” American Diabetes Association 13).

In conclusion, it is very important to learn about diabetes. It is even more important if a family has a history of the disease, have a certain ethnicity background, or is guilty of the things that increase the chances of diabetes. It is not an easy disease to live with; however, making the right lifestyle choices can make it easier to adjust to. So many people are diagnosed with this disease each year. Therefore, it is important to learn about the causes, symptoms, diagnostic tests, treatments, and prevention measures of this disease.

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