Diabetes: What Is It? What Can You Do?

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November is American Diabetes Month. For those who have been diagnosed, diabetes affects nearly every decision they make every day — from what they’ll eat, wear and do to how they’ll take care of themselves.

What is diabetes?

Perhaps the first thing to know about diabetes is that it isn’t just one disease.

It’s actually a group of diseases characterized by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It may be that the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin—a hormone involved in turning food into glucose, which the body uses for energy. Another possibility is that the body isn’t using insulin effectively.

Whatever the case, the result is too much sugar in the blood. And excessive amounts of blood sugar can harm organs and lead to serious problems.


Diabetes typically strikes in one of three ways.


Type 1 diabetes

Previously called juvenile-onset diabetes, type 1 usually begins in childhood or young adulthood.

It occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin—or makes no insulin at all. That’s why people with type 1 need to regularly take insulin, often with daily injections.

Only about 5 percent of adults diagnosed with diabetes have type 1.


Type 2 diabetes

This is the most common type of diabetes. About 90 to 95 percent of adults diagnosed with diabetes have type 2.


It was once called adult-onset diabetes, but it’s increasingly being found in children.


Type 2 occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it properly. Genetics, diet and inactivity are all probable causes. Medicines and sometimes insulin are needed to treat it.


Gestational diabetes

Some women who’ve never had diabetes before develop it during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes usually resolves once the baby is born. However, it increases the mother’s risk for future type 2 diabetes—as well as the baby’s risk, if the mother isn’t treated.


What about prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a serious warning that type 2 diabetes is on its way. If you’re told you have prediabetes, it means your blood sugar (glucose) level is higher than normal, but not quite high enough to be type 2 diabetes. But if your glucose level continues to go up–and you don’t take steps to bring it down–you’ll probably develop full-blown diabetes.


How do I know if I have it?

You can’t count on having symptoms of prediabetes to warn you of the condition, because often there are none. The only way to know for sure is to have your blood sugar level measured.

Carson Valley Medical Center offers a discounted $30 A1C diabetes screening with its Community Wellness Draws days on the third Thursday of every month. The discounted screenings will be offered Nov. 15 this month. No appointment is needed, just show up between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.


Your doctor may recommend that you be tested for the condition if you’re 45 or older. Even if you’re younger than 45, your doctor might also want you to get tested if you are overweight and have other risk factors, such as if you have a family history of diabetes; are African American, Asian American or Hispanic/Latino; have high blood pressure; or are not physically active.


Small steps can go a long way

And now the really good news: Prediabetes can often be turned around with lifestyle changes. Losing some weight (shedding even 7 percent of your body weight can help), exercising regularly, eating less fat and calories, and eating more fiber and whole grains can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.


What services are offered?

Carson Valley Medical Center’s five satellite primary care clinics around the Valley offer retinal non-dilated eye exams, which can help detect diabetes, along with foot exams, hemoglobin A1C testing and microalbumin testing, which can track signs of damage to the kidneys.


Carson Valley Medical Center’s Wound Care center offers diabetic foot care as well.


Contact your CVMC primary care provider about any of these services. If you don’t have a primary care provider, you can call 775-782-1545 to get established with one.


Carson Valley Medical Center’s Nutrition Counseling department offers a number of free diabetes and prediabetes nutrition seminars throughout the year. You can check cvmchospital.org for a schedule.



Sources: American Diabetes Association; Centers for Disease Control; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; UpToDate

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