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What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that is caused by insufficient or ineffective action of the hormone insulin. Insulin is like a key that unlocks the door for glucose (blood sugar) to get into certain cells to make and store energy. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to several complications, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease (heart disease, stroke)
  • Peripheral vascular disease (decreased blood flow and blood clots in the legs/arms)
  • Retinopathy (vision problems including blindness)
  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve problems) that can lead or loss of sensation and/or infection, amputation
  • Kidney disease
  • Skin changes including hair loss, darkened skin, swelling

There are 2 main types of diabetes.

  • Symptoms-regardless of the cause, symptoms of diabetes can include excessive thirst, excessive urination, weight loss OR weight gain, muscle wasting, fatigue, change in vision, numbness or tingling in the feet or hands, craving for sweets, and lightheadedness.
  • Diagnosis of diabetes is defined by one or all three of the following:
    • Fasting blood sugar greater than 126
    • Random blood sugar greater than 200
    • Hemoglobin A1c greater than 6.5%
  • Treatment-There are many oral, injectable, and inhaled classes of medications to treat the metabolic causes and contributing factors to diabetes. The goal is to reduce average blood sugar to prevent the long-term complications while balancing the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Although there is no cure for diabetes, careful management of diabetes can prevent the long-term complications and keep you feeling healthy. This involves frequent blood tests and visits to adjust your medications, as well as lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.
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