Are you concerned about whether or not you have diabetes?
“The problem with diabetes is that it’s insidious and subtle,” Brian Stevens, an PA-C practicing in endocrinology, shares.
So, how do people with diabetes ensure they’re on the right track? Understanding diabetes and how it affects your body is important for creating a new, healthier lifestyle.
Brian is here to answer questions and unpack the information patients want to know most about diabetes.
What exactly is diabetes?
Brian: Diabetes is a disease that impacts many different aspects of the body. People with diabetes do not process carbohydrates correctly, which causes blood glucose to increase. The disease can also cause your body to be resistant to creating insulin or stop it all together. It makes it harder for your body to control your blood sugars.
If I’m told I’m prediabetic, what does that mean?
Brian: Prediabetic means you may be on the way to being diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is diagnosed based on blood glucose levels, fasting glucose levels and HB A1C. HB A1C of 6 percent to 6.5 percent is diagnostic for pre-diabetes. Greater than 6.5 percent is considered diabetes. In fact, the medical community is lowering the standard A1C level from 6 percent to 5.7 percent to help catch diabetes sooner in at-risk patients.
What are symptoms of diabetes to look out for?
Brian: People often realize they have diabetes after they’ve had it for a long time – they were asymptomatic. For someone who does experience symptoms, some signs of diabetes are excessive thirst because blood sugar is high and the kidneys must work overtime to get glucose out of the blood, leading to dehydration and dry mouth. Other symptoms include cloudy vision, which is a sign of high blood sugar, and chronic yeast infections or UTIs.
What are the different types of diabetes?
Brian: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that destroys the pancreatic cells that make insulin, causing a complete loss of insulin production over time. Type 1 diabetes used to be referred to as “juvenile diabetes” because of its early diagnoses. However, it’s seen in adults as well. People with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent and need it to be healthy for the rest of their lives.
Type 2 diabetes is more of a slower metabolic disorder. For my patients with type 2 diabetes, I encourage them to look at their diabetes as a life-long diagnosis. However, knowledge is critical to managing diabetes. I’ve had plenty of patients that have lost weight, got on medications and are now at a healthy A1C level. Though, it’s important that these patients remain vigilant and not fall into old habits. It is critical to maintain the healthy lifestyle that helped control this disease and to avoid denial that it still there.
How does diabetes affect a person’s life?
Brian: Diabetes affects your life daily and can be costly. Insulin and medications are expensive. Insulin-dependent patients must prick their fingers to test their blood sugar and give themselves insulin. Additionally, the psychological and emotional impact can be hard. Diabetes is a chronic illness – it’s hard, and sometimes people give up. It’s important to remember that no one is struggling with diabetes alone.
Who can help me manage my diabetes symptoms?
Brian: Primary care providers are normally the first touch point for patients with diabetes. Some patients may be referred to a specialist. Medications and insulin may help if needed. A glucometer is a tool to check blood sugar levels and sends the results to your phone.
Learn more about our diabetes and endocrinology services at Mercy Health.