What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

For more information, see the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse publication, Your Guide to Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. or visit the National Diabetes Prevention website.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

People who think that they may have diabetes should visit a physician to seek diagnosis and treatment. They might have SOME or NONE of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Feeling very tired much of the time
  • Very dry skin
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • More infections than usual
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomach pains may accompany some of these symptoms in the abrupt onset of insulin-dependent diabetes, now called Type 1 Diabetes.

What are the types of diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes, which was previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes, may account for about 5% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes, which was previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes, may account for about 90-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes is a type of diabetes that only pregnant women get. If not treated, it can cause problems for mothers and babies. Gestational diabetes develops in 2% to 10% of all pregnancies but usually disappears when a pregnancy is over. Other specific types of diabetes resulting from specific genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections, and other illnesses may account for 1% to 5% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

What are the risk factors for diabetes?

Risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes include older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes.

Risk factors are less well defined for Type 1 Diabetes than for Type 2 Diabetes, but autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are involved in developing this type of diabetes.

Gestational diabetes occurs more frequently in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and people with a family history of diabetes than in other groups. Obesity is also associated with higher risk. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35%-60% chance of developing diabetes in the following 10-20 years.

What is the treatment for diabetes?

Healthy eating, physical activity, and insulin injections are the basic therapies for Type 1 Diabetes. The amount of insulin taken must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose testing.

Healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing are the basic therapies for Type 2 Diabetes. In addition, many people with Type 2 Diabetes require oral medication, insulin, or both to control their blood glucose levels.

People with diabetes must take responsibility for their day-to-day care, and keep blood glucose levels from going too low or too high.

People with diabetes should see a health care provider who will monitor their diabetes control and help them learn to manage their diabetes. In addition, people with diabetes may be seen by endocrinologists, who often specialize in diabetes care; ophthalmologists for eye examinations; podiatrists for routine foot care; and dietitians and diabetes educators who teach the skills needed for daily diabetes management.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, we can help. We can check your blood sugar and explain what to look for in the result. We can provide education, support and encouragement so you can have control over your blood sugar levels to prevent or delay any possible complications. We offer group classes at various times throughout the year. Most importantly, our experienced Registered Dietician can help you learn how to count carbohydrates and plan your meals effectively.

Click here for more information on the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

Individual Visits with a Registered Dietician or Registered Nurse for Diabetes Education

Visits are scheduled by appointment.

A registered nurse will counsel patients on a variety of topics related to diabetes including but not limited to:

  • Foot care
  • Dental care
  • Long-term complications
  • Yearly schedule of tests needed for diabetes management
  • Review of lab values
  • Monitoring and management of blood sugar
  • Periodic food exam