It's a disease that many people don't even know they have and more people are getting it every day, a registered nurse and certified diabetic educator for The Memorial Hospital said.
November is National Diabetes Awareness month in which people are encouraged to get their annual checkups, which should include glucose level screening.
Amy Knight said that with those who have diabetes, most of their pancreas works just fine only one small part of the organ stops making insulin, which helps the body convert food into energy.
Just last month, TMH's Diabetes Self-Management Program was re-certified by the American Diabetes Association.
Knight said the program, which has been around for three years, helps people with diabetes take care of themselves.
"We talk about nutrition, exercise, stress, what to do if you get sick, if your blood glucose is too high or too low," Knight said. "We make sure they're monitoring their blood glucose enough."
Knight said the program saw 227 different diabetics in the last year for at least one visit.
"There are a lot more people who have diabetes than know about it," Knight said. "Diabetes is on the rise because more people are becoming overweight, which means they aren't exercising or eating healthy, which puts them at risk of diabetes."
According to the Centers of Disease Control, if left untreated diabetes can lead to blindness, leg amputations, kidney disease, heart attack and stroke.
The CDC also recommends that people who think they might have diabetes must visit a physician for diagnosis. They might have some or none of the following symptoms:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme hunger
- Sudden vision changes
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Feeling very tired much of the time
- Very dry skin
- Sores that are slow to heal
- More infections than usual.
Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains may accompany some of these symptoms in the abrupt onset of insulin-dependent diabetes, now called type 1 diabetes, according to the CDC.
Knight said there are several misconceptions regarding the disease, including that people with diabetes should not eat anything with sugar.
Because carbohydrates have sugar, this would reduce a diet to meats and fat, Knight said.
"You need carbohydrates -- even though they raise your blood sugar -- for sugar," Knight said. "It's a balancing act. Everything in moderation. It's a balance between medication, exercise and diet."