More than 30 million adults in the United States are living with type 2 diabetes, and a whopping 84 million more have prediabetes, according to the latest report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is nearly half of the adult population.
The good news is that diabetes may be prevented and is treatable. For those with prediabetes, prevention may involve eating healthier and getting more exercise. For those living with diabetes, a combination of medication and lifestyle changes can often reduce or even eliminate symptoms such as fatigue, blurred vision, and pain, numbness or swelling in the feet and legs.
When left untreated, diabetes can cause serious complications that may have long-term impacts on your health and lower your quality of life. Seeing your doctor when you first start experiencing symptoms, getting tested and taking the necessary steps to manage or prevent diabetes can save you a lot of time, money and pain. Although sometimes there are no symptoms, here are some early symptoms you should look out for:
1. Fatigue and Hunger
Most people know that diabetes can make you tired, but not everyone knows it can also make you hungry. If your body isn’t making enough insulin or is not able to use your insulin effectively, your cells won’t be able to get energy from the foods you eat. This can make you lethargic, and you may become tired or out of breath quickly from doing ordinary activities and get hungry more often. If you start noticing changes or patterns in your energy levels, tell your doctor and have your blood glucose (sugar) levels checked.
2. Thirst and Frequent Urination
Having to urinate more often can also be a symptom of diabetes or prediabetes. If your cells aren’t absorbing the sugar from your food, it causes your blood sugar level to go up, which makes more fluid move through your kidneys. This causes your body to produce more urine. You may also feel thirsty, which is your body’s way of telling you to replace those fluids.
3. Dry Mouth, Itchy Skin and Blurred Vision
Changes in fluid levels can result in other symptoms as well. Dehydration can make your mouth and skin dry, and dry skin often becomes itchy. The lenses in your eyes may also swell and change shape, which can give you blurry vision.
4. Pain or Numbness in Your Feet or Legs, and
If you feel pain or numbness in your feet or legs, or are experiencing other symptoms such as cuts or sores taking longer to heal, there is a good chance your blood sugar levels have been too high for some time and the condition is more serious.
With so many people living with or at risk for type 2 diabetes, Southeast Georgia Health System has made diabetes education a priority. Recognized by the American Diabetes Association for quality self-management education, the Southeast Georgia Health System’s Outpatient Diabetes Education Program has helped hundreds of patients with diabetes and prediabetes better manage their condition and live happier, healthier lives.
Over the course of a month, program participants attend a series of three classes that cover a variety of topics related to controlling their diabetes, including diabetes myths and facts, nutrition, exercise, monitoring blood sugar levels, medications, and prevention of long-term complications. “Whether someone has just been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, or is having trouble controlling their diabetes, we help them set personal goals and give them the tools they need to make incremental lifestyle changes,” says Sue Ullrich, R.N., MA.Ed., CDE, diabetes program coordinator. “The classes are also great for people who could use a refresher, since there have been a number of changes to how diabetes is managed.”The program is available at both the Brunswick and Camden campuses, and class sizes are limited to around 20. Individual sessions and a monthly Health Matters support group that offers demonstrations of healthy recipes and other interactive activities are also available. To enroll, or for more information, visit sghs.org/diabetes-education or call 912-466-1689 (Brunswick) or 912-576-6488 (Camden).
Ullrich will also be available to answer questions about diabetes during the Health System’s Community Health & Wellness Fair on Saturday, June 15, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at Brunswick High School.