You may have noticed symptoms, or you may just have a mother, brother or other relative with the disease. Either way, asking the question “do I have diabetes?” is a smart one to ask.
Diabetes is common. Almost everyone knows someone with the disease. And unfortunately, it is becoming more prevalent. Over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and a child born today has a one in three chance of developing the disease.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, one in two people (over 212 million people) who have diabetes don’t even know they have it. If you are just developing the disease or have prediabetes, you may not have any symptoms yet. But uncontrolled diabetes can cause damage to your body and lead to other health issues. That’s why it’s so important to have yearly check-ups with your primary care physician. The earlier in the disease process it is detected the easier it is to manage or reverse its’ progression, and the more you are able to decrease your risk of other diseases such as heart disease.
What Causes Diabetes?
No one truly knows what causes diabetes, though we do know what factors can put you at a higher risk.
Who is at Risk for Diabetes?
More than 90 percent of people with diabetes in the U.S. have Type 2 diabetes. The good news is, it’s largely preventable. In fact, if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, it can likely be delayed or prevented with even moderate weight loss and physical activity.
The risk factors that can be changed are:
- Fasting blood sugar
- Weight and waist circumference
- Physical activity
- Blood pressure
- HDL cholesterol
The risk factors you can’t change are:
- Age – 45 years or older
- Family history of diabetes
- Gender & Ethnicity – Women are at a higher risk than men. Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives are at higher risk. (A Hispanic girl born today has a 1 in 2 chance of developing diabetes)
- Diabetes with pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
What Are the Signs of Diabetes?
Talk to your doctor about screening if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- An abrupt increase in thirst
- A sudden increase in the frequency of urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increased hunger
- Dry skin or sores that heal slowly
- Blurred vision
Should I be Screened for Diabetes?
If you have no risk factors, screening is recommended at age 45. However, if you are overweight or have a family history of diabetes you should be tested regardless of age. Talk to your doctor about an individualized screening plan.
What are the Side Effects of Diabetes?
Diabetes doesn’t travel alone. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to a host of medical issues including:
- Cardiovascular disease – Heart disease is the leading cause of death in people with diabetes
- Eye complications – People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from eye issues such as glaucoma, cataracts, retinopathy and blindness
- Skin issues – Diabetes can make people more prone to skin conditions
- Neuropathy – Approximately half of people with diabetes have nerve damage of some form
- Kidney disease – Diabetes can cause damage to the kidneys which can cause them to fail
- Gastroparesis – The disease can cause damage to the vagus nerve causing the stomach to take too long to empty
- Stroke – Diabetes can raise your risk of a stroke by 1.5 times
- Heart attack – People with diabetes are at an increased risk for plaque buildup in the arteries which can lead to a heart attack
Diabetes Treatment in Kansas City
If you think you may have diabetes, talk to your primary care physician. If you don’t have a doctor, HCA Midwest Health has over 180 primary care providers throughout the Kansas City area. A primary doctor can assess your risk factors, come up with a care plan to reduce them and get you on the road to better health.