Diabetes: Three Things to Know

woman with glucose meter and an apple

1. What is diabetes? Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in which the blood sugar levels are elevated. Type 1 diabetes is less common, and usually presents in the younger population. It is treated only with insulin. Type 2 diabetes is much more prevalent, usually occurs in people over 40 (though this is changing), is associated with obesity and family history and is treated with pills and insulin. However, few patients have features of both types of diabetes.

2. How prevalent is diabetes? Diabetes is present in up to 10 percent of the U.S. population and a number of patients do not have symptoms. The most common symptoms of high sugars are increased urination and thirst, weight loss and blurry vision. A simple blood test to check the glucose levels can diagnose diabetes, using a three-month average of blood sugars called HbA1c.

3. How is diabetes managed? Diabetes is managed by a team of specialists including the primary care physician, endocrinologists and diabetes educators. There are a number of oral and injectable treatment options for diabetes. Especially in type 2 diabetes, diet, exercise and weight loss play a significant role.

Controlling the blood sugars is important to prevent complications such as eye, kidney and nerve damage, heart attacks and foot problems. Hence, labs are checked regularly to monitor kidney function and cholesterol. Patients also need an annual eye exam and regular foot exams. Regular checkups and keeping the sugars under control go a long way in reducing the risk of developing complications from diabetes.

Dr. Vijay Eranki is an endocrinologist at SwedishAmerican's Brookside Specialty Center. To make an appointment, call (779) 696-9201.