Diabetes often goes undiagnosed, untreated

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 03/25/97.

Yesterday, March 25, was National Diabetes Alert Day. Diabetes is one disease not all people may not have any symptoms.

The growing toll in Minnesota reflects a sobering national trend. More than 270,000 Minnesotans have diabetes and more than 130,000 are undiagnosed. Every day, 30 Minnesotans are diagnosed with diabetes (11,000 per year).

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Minnesota and the third most common cause listed anywhere on death certificates. Diabetes is an incurable disease that results when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, which is required to process food. Without enough insulin, the amount of sugar in the blood rises to potentially damaging levels.

Laura Miller, Paynesville Area Health Care System Pharm.D., does diabetes screenings at the Senior Center the third Tuesday of every month. ďWhen someoneís blood sugar level is over 140 on more than two occasions after fasting, or 160 on a normal day, that is a warning sign. A person is advised to be checked by a doctor,Ē she said.

Miller explained a fasting blood sugar test is when the individual hasnít eaten in more than eight hours. For most individuals at the screenings, they havenít eaten in four hours. Miller said the normal blood sugar range for somebody without diabetes is 70 to 120.

The screenings at the Paynesville Area Senior Center are free and held from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month.

Diabetes strikes people of all ages, but is especially common among older people, overweight people, African American, American Indians and those of Hispanic origin. People with diabetes usually need to take daily insulin injections or oral medications, and must frequently check their blood sugar, using pricks and testing meters.

Public health officials are working aggressively to prevent and treat diabetes. Ann Barry, Minnesota Health Commissioner, said the high human and economic costs of diabetes require an aggressive approach. ďDiabetes is one of the costliest diseases challenging public health today. If we can prevent the disease among high-risk people and reduce complications among those who have it, we can limit the tremendous human and economic costs of diabetes,Ē Barry said. The cost of properly managing diabetes is estimated to be about $4,500 per person per year.

The symptoms of diabetes include unusual thirst, frequent urination, abnormal hunger or fatigue, sores that wonít heal, sudden weight loss, blurred vision and unexpected weakness. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your physician. Preventive services for those diagnosed with diabetes include glycosylated hemoglobin tests (which measure blood sugar over time), eye exams, foot exams, and tests of kidney functions.

The risk of stroke is two to four times higher in people with diabetes. An estimated 60 to 65 percent of persons with diabetes have high blood pressure as well.

Some studies have shown that increasing physical activity may lower the risk of developing Type II diabetes, which affects adults. Miller explained that 90 percent of those with diabetes have Type II, a stage of diabetes you get when you are over 40 and is treatable with tablets or by closely watching your diet. Type I begins in childhood and requires insulin treatment for survival.

If you are at risk, talk to your doctor about diabetes, have a blood sugar test for diabetes every year, eat a well-balanced diet, keep your weight under control and exercise regular. For more information call Miller at the Paynesville Area Health Care System, 320-243-7759 or contact your local doctor.

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