LOGO 2019
Sugar overflowing off a spoon; recognizing diabetes and pre-diabetes

Preventing, Recognizing, and Treating Diabetes


By Kristy Warren

 

Diabetes and its precursor pre-diabetes affect more than 100 million Americans with many not even realizing they're at risk. March 24th marks “Diabetes Alert Day,” which aims to bring awareness to this chronic condition. 

 

UNDERSTANDING PRE-DIABETES & DIABETES 

Glucose is the primary sugar that our body uses for energy. When we eat or drink, most of the sugars we consume get broken down into glucose by our bodies and then sent into our bloodstream. The pancreas then releases insulin, a hormone that helps move glucose from our blood into our cells to be used/stored for energy. When someone has diabetes, their body isn’t able to move or store glucose well. This metabolic disease creates elevated blood sugar levels and can lead to many other health problems with our heart, kidneys, vision, and circulation.

 

Pre-diabetes refers to blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet diabetic, putting someone at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

 

TYPES OF DIABETES:

  • Type 1 diabetes is when the body stops producing insulin entirely; you may have heard it called “juvenile onset” or “insulin-dependent” diabetes because it is typically diagnosed in someone’s youth and requires daily insulin injections or an insulin pump

  • Type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn’t use insulin properly and/or no longer produces enough insulin; it is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for over 90% of cases and can develop at any age

  • Gestational diabetes affects a mother’s ability to create/use insulin during pregnancy; it occurs in approx. 10% of pregnancies

 

In the video below, Laurel Health Center physician Dr. Mark Molckovsky shares tips on preventing, recognizing, and managing pre-diabetes and diabetes.

WHY IS DIABETES DANGEROUS?

Having too much glucose in the blood clogs up our small blood vessels. Some of the smallest blood vessels in our bodies are the nerves in our fingertips and toes, the filtering system in our kidneys, and the retinas in our eyes. This is why diabetes can negatively affect our circulation, limbs, and vision—in severe cases, uncontrolled diabetes can even lead to amputated limbs and blindness. Elevated sugar levels also affect our ability to heal. As a result, people with diabetes often take longer to heal from cuts, scratches, incisions, and other wounds.

 

SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES

Common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination

  • Fatigue

  • Persistent hunger

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Slow-healing cuts

  • Pain or numbness in the legs and feet

People with severe, uncontrolled diabetes often suffer from an unquenchable thirst. This is because too much sugar in the blood can mimic dehydration, so our body promotes feeling extremely thirsty to try to rehydrate. Erectile dysfunction is another common, but little talked about consequence of poorly controlled diabetes; the small blood vessels to the sexual organs are impacted by elevated glucose and become clogged, not allowing blood to flow to the area and causing sexual dysfunction.

 

WHO SHOULD BE TESTED FOR DIABETES?

Anyone experiencing diabetes-related symptoms should talk to their healthcare provider right away. Those who are overweight and over the age of 40 are encouraged to have blood-sugar specific checks once each year, either through a finger-prick test or traditional blood test (i.e., blood taken from a vein). These tests help medical providers gauge your average blood sugar level and monitor for changes.

 

PREVENTING & TREATING DIABETES

 

If you are at risk for developing diabetes or are diagnosed with untreated diabetes, there are simple steps you can take to improve your health. What we eat and drink really matters. The sucrose, fructose, and corn syrup commonly used in processed foods are broken down into glucose. So is starch (a carbohydrate found in bread) and lactose (a carbohydrate found in milk). 

Since so many foods and drinks have carbohydrates that break down into glucose, the types of carbohydrates we consume and how many we consume are important factors in a healthy diet. If you have elevated sugar levels, avoid soft drinks like soda, juice, or milk and focus on drinking enough water instead. How much water we need varies from person to person, but a good starting goal for most adults is 70 ounces of water per day.

Woman drinking water

Your doctor may also talk to you about how to safely increase your exercise levels to help your body utilize extra sugar. If your diabetes is highly uncontrolled, you may also be prescribed medicine to help lower your blood sugar levels.

 

If you are currently experiencing diabetic symptoms, have uncontrolled diabetes, would like to be tested, or want to discuss available medications, make an appointment with the Laurel Health Centers today. All Laurel Health locations offer both in-person and telemedicine appointments to ensure you can be seen quickly and safely. Laurel also offers a sliding fee program for income-eligible patients to ensure all patients have access to high-quality care regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status.

 

Dr. Mark Molckovsky is passionate about preventing, diagnosing, and managing diabetes. He is currently accepting patients at the Lawrenceville Laurel Health Center. Both televisits and onsite appointments are available. To make an appointment with Dr. Molckovsky, please call 570-827-0125.

 

For more information on diabetes education or Laurel Health's family medicine, specialty care, and wellness services, click here.  

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