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Diabetes 
By Keith Norris, MD, PhD, D’Ann Morris, MPA, Arleen Brown, MD, PhD 
Published November 9, 2016

141014-diabetes-stock

Diabetes is a condition when the body has a problem handling sugar and the sugar levels in the blood are too high. Normally the body makes a hormone called insulin to control blood sugar levels. The problem in diabetes is the body does not make enough insulin or the insulin is not working well or both. When your body makes enough insulin and it is working well, your muscles and tissues can use sugar as energy. When the body does not make enough insulin or the insulin is not working well, the sugar stays in the blood and this causes high blood sugar levels. If the high blood sugar level is not fixed, then after several years the body will be harmed. It can cause blindness, kidney failure, strokes, heart disease, and poor circulation, which leads to amputation.

Each year more people around the world get diabetes. Right now in the United States more than 30 million people may have diabetes. In the United States, minorities are more than twice as likely to get diabetes than White persons. Many people with diabetes will not feel any differently. Only when the blood sugar levels are very high do they feel bad. They may urinate more, become very thirsty, and have blurry vision.

Are there different types of diabetes? Yes. There are two main types of Diabetes. They are called type 2 diabetes, and type 1 diabetes. Only 1 of every 10 people with diabetes has type I diabetes. In type I diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually begins at a young age. This type of diabetes is mostly treated with insulin, diabetes education, and watching the diet. Sometimes newer medicines can also be used.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. Almost 9 of every 10 people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes usually begins in adults, but it is becoming common in young people. In most people with type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin but it does not work well. Being overweight and not exercising are common causes of the body’s insulin not working well. People with type 2 diabetes can usually take pills to help their insulin work better but over time the insulin levels may become low and some need to take insulin.

Most people who get type 2 diabetes first get prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where your blood sugar is above normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People with prediabetes are at high risk for developing diabetes, but if this condition is recognized early, type 2 diabetes can be prevented.

What if my sugar goes too low? Hypoglycemia is a state of low blood sugar. This is dangerous because the brain needs sugar for energy. Some of the signs of low blood sugar are sweating, shaking and having an increased heart rate. A person with diabetes may need to eat sugar or get an injection of glucose if they have low sugar.

What is all the fuss about Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)? When the blood sugar is high, some of the extra sugar sticks to the red blood cells. This extra sugar can be measured by a test called the HbA1c. Since each red blood cell lives for 120 days, the HbA1c can tell how well your blood sugar has been doing over the last few months.

The most important thing that you can do to prevent and treat diabetes is learning about it. Diabetes education and treatment should include more than just the person with diabetes. Taking care of your diabetes should include regular check-ups with healthcare professionals. Family members, other decision makers, and friends can also help you learn about diabetes. This team of people can help you prevent and control diabetes and its complications.

What new research is helping people with diabetes? At UCLA, there is a new study called “FRIENDS Text”. “FRIENDS Text” stands for “Friends & Relatives Improving the Effectiveness of Networks for Diabetes Support through TEXT messages”. The purpose of the study is to get our team in the game. The study is to help African American women with type 2 diabetes get better control of their blood sugar through supportive friends and relatives and text messages. Since almost everyone has a phone, we are testing if having their team encourage and support them can improve healthy diabetes behaviors and get better blood sugar levels. For more information about FRIENDS Text, call: 1-855-533-3925.

Categories: Family | Health
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