Diabetes is a metabolic disease that ultimately causes elevated levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in children and young adults and is caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the most common form, the body does not use insulin properly. Glucose is important to staying healthy, because it is a key way that cells in your muscles and tissues get energy, as well as your brain.
Too much glucose can cause many serious health issues, including heart disease, blindness, and kidney failure. The longer the disease goes untreated, the greater the risk of complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
Some people with diabetes may have symptoms. Others may not have any at all.
Below are the most common symptoms listed by the CDC:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme hunger
- Sudden vision changes
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Feeling very tired much of the time
- Very dry skin
- Sores that are slow to heal
- More infections than usual
There are a number of factors that can increase your chances of getting diabetes. For type 1, they include autoimmune and genetic reasons. In type 2, factors such as age, obesity, family history, physical activity, and race play a role.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), African Americans are nearly twice as likely to suffer from diabetes compared to Caucasians and are up to 5.6 times more likely to develop kidney disease. Additional statistics show that 13.2% of all African Americans 20 years or older have been diagnosed with diabetes. Some of this may be attributed to poverty, lack of access to health care and cultural attitudes and behaviors.
The ADA recommends diabetes screening for anyone with a body mass index higher than 25, regardless of age, and anyone older than 45 years old. A glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test, a random blood sugar test, a fasting blood sugar test, and an oral glucose tolerance test are all ways to check for diabetes.
Diabetes is manageable, and if you do your part, complications can be prevented or delayed. Common ways to treat diabetes include medication, insulin, healthy eating and physical activity.