According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 18 million people in the United States have diabetes and of those, about five million people are unaware that they have the condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar levels. The condition results from a defect in the bodys ability to produce or utilize insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that is necessary to convert glucose into a form that can be used by cells for growth and energy. Most adults develop type II diabetes that is the inability of the body to utilize insulin and consequently the glucose level goes up in the blood since it is unable to go into the tissues. This causes abnormally high glucose levels (hyperglycemia).
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of diabetes result from the elevated circulating blood glucose and include blurred vision, constant hunger, fatigue, frequent urination and increased thirst.
High levels of circulating blood sugar for prolonged periods of time has long-term harmful affects on both large and small blood vessels. This might lead to narrowing of the wall of the tiny blood vessels going to the heart and/or the brain. This makes it easy for any tiny blood clot to cause complete occlusion of a vital tiny blood vessel going to the heart, kidney or to the brain resulting in a heart attack, kidney failure or a stroke.
Many patients may not realize that they have diabetes until they develop their first heart attack. That is why diabetes is being called a silent killer since people may not be aware that they have it until they develop a catastrophic event like a heart attack, visual loss, kidney failure, stroke or even sudden death.
Although diabetes may not show any symptoms for years, certain predisposing factors may alert a person to check themself for diabetes, like having excessive body weight, especially around the waist, and a family history of diabetes.
The fasting blood glucose test is used to diagnose diabetes. This test is performed after the patient has fasted for at least eight hours. After diagnosis of diabetes is established, another blood test called the HbA1C test is done to evaluate the average level of glucose in the blood for the past three months. In healthy individuals this value should be less than 6%.
It is very important to have early diagnosis and treatment for diabetes. First, initial management is through weight loss, diet modification and daily exercise. If these measures fail, then oral therapy should be started.
Diabetes cannot be cured, but it often can be managed with proper medical care, diet, and regular exercise. Early treatment of diabetes is an essential factor to prevent the development of its complications.