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Diabetes Awareness Month

Happy November! November is typically associated with Veteran’s Day, Christmas parades (or at least here in Raleigh!), Thanksgiving, and Black Friday.

Did you know that November is also Diabetes Awareness Month? Both the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association highlight the importance of eye exams for people with diabetes during the month of November.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of diseases resulting in blood sugar levels being too high. Blood sugar levels are regulated by a hormone called insulin which is produced by the pancreas.

There are 4 common forms of diabetes:

  • Type 1 – Chronic condition. The pancreas either produces little to no insulin. Previously referred to as Insulin Dependent Diabetes or Juvenile Diabetes. Accounts for approximately 5-10% of diabetes diagnoses. Few known risk factors.

  • Type 2 – Also a chronic condition. With this form of diabetes, the way the body processes blood sugar is affected. Previously referred to as Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes. Accounts for approximately 90-95% of diabetes diagnoses. Known risk factors include family history of diabetes, age, obesity, history of gestational diabetes, race/ethnicity, activity levels and poor glucose tolerance.

  • Prediabetes – Blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to be designated Type 2 diabetes.

  • Gestational – High blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs in about 2-5% of pregnancies and typically resolves when the pregnancy is over. Women of specific ethnicities or who have a family history of diabetes are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. Obesity may also increase a woman’s chance of developing gestational diabetes.

Symptoms of Diabetes

People with diabetes may or may not experience some of the symptoms associated with diabetes. It is important to see a physician if you think you or a loved one may have diabetes.

The symptoms of diabetes may include:

  • Excessive thirst and/or hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling in the hands and/or feet
  • Increase in infections
  • Wounds/sores that are slow to heal
  • Abnormally dry skin

Treatment of Diabetes

There is no known cure for diabetes. Prior to 1921, there were very few treatments for diabetes. Most people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes only had a life expectancy of 1-2 years after diagnosis. In 1922, the first human was treated with insulin. From there, the development of insulin grew from utilizing insulin derived from pigs and cattle to biosynthetic human insulin to ultra-rapid and long-lasting insulins. Insulin may be administered in several different ways: injections, pens or via an insulin pump. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes must use insulin multiple times a day to stay alive.

Individuals with Type 2 diabetes have more treatment options available. Treatment may include a multi-pronged approach through medication, weight loss, exercise, healthy eating habits and blood sugar monitoring.

Diabetes and Eye Health

Diabetes can have profound affects on vision. Once diagnosed with diabetes, your physician will most likely recommend you see your ophthalmologist or optometrist for a baseline exam. People with diabetes are encouraged to have a yearly dilated diabetic eye exam. A diagnosis of diabetes increases the possibility of developing eye diseases that could lead to permanent loss of vision such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or cataracts. In future blog posts, we will discuss the specific ocular issues related to diabetes.

To learn more about diabetes, we encourage you to visit the American Diabetes Association. If you have noticed changes in your vision, or it has been more than a year since your last exam call today to schedule your appointment 919-282-1100.

Life is beautiful, see it clearly!