Norman Regional Health System

Monday, March 8, 2021

Each year, about 1.5 million adults are newly diagnosed with diabetes in the United States, while an additional 88 million adults have prediabetes — a condition where a person’s blood sugar levels are above the normal range, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. 

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death nationally and contributes to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease, blindness, amputations, pregnancy complications and nervous system disease.

In Oklahoma, about 12% of the population has diabetes (compared to about 10.5% nationally). More than 90,000 adults in the state may also have undiagnosed diabetes.

Here’s a closer look at the types of diabetes, signs and symptoms, and ways to prevent the development of the chronic medical condition.

Types of Diabetes

There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes: A chronic (lifelong) condition that occurs when a person’s pancreas does not produce insulin or produces very little insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) to move from the bloodstream into a person’s cells to generate energy. This energy produces muscles and tissues, and helps fuel the brain. This type of diabetes may require insulin therapy and other treatments to help manage the condition.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes accounts for more than 90 percent of all diabetes diagnoses and, in most cases, can be prevented through proper exercise and nutrition. With type 2 diabetes, a person’s body produces insulin but does not use it properly. In some cases, people with type 2 diabetes can manage the condition and their blood sugar levels by exercising and eating healthy, while others may need insulin or medications. Type 2 diabetes disproportionately impacts people of color and adults over the age of 65.
  • Gestational diabetes: About 10% of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes. This means they are diagnosed with diabetes for the first time during pregnancy (gestation). Like type 2 diabetes, the condition impacts how the person’s body uses insulin. Since it causes high blood sugar that can impact the mother’s and baby’s health, it is especially important to manage the condition through exercise and a healthy diet. In some cases, the expectant mother may need to take medication. Blood sugar levels will likely return to normal after the baby is delivered, but may put the woman at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of diabetes can be subtle and may go unnoticed. Common symptoms include:

  • Excessive thirst and/or hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurry vision
  • Extreme feelings of tiredness
  • Bruises and/or cuts that do not heal quickly
  • Weight loss despite eating more frequently (type 1 diabetes)
  • Pain, numbness or tingling in your hands and/or feet (type 2 diabetes)

Possible Complications

It is important to diagnose and begin treating diabetes early to decrease the risk of developing certain complications from the condition, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Neuropathy (nerve damage)
  • Foot problems
  • Eye problems
  • Skin disorders or infections
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (a life-threatening condition caused by the production of high levels of blood acids called ketones when there is not enough insulin in a person’s body)

Want to learn if you are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes? Take this one-minute Risk Test from the American Diabetes Association.

Tips for Preventing the Development of Type 2 Diabetes

  • Manage your weight. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight — even a small amount — can help decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Eat healthy. Adopting healthy eating habits can help prevent obesity and medical conditions like type 2 diabetes. When making food choices, fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables; choose whole grains; opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy products; drink water and low-fat milk instead of sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks; eat lean protein sources; choose low-sodium and high-fiber foods; and examine the portion sizes on food items.
  • Set an exercise routine and stick with it. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week — that’s about 20 to 30 minutes each day. Children and teens should participate in at least one hour of physical activity daily. Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, which can reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Get plenty of rest. Insufficient sleep is linked to several chronic conditions, like obesity and type 2 diabetes. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should receive at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Know your numbers. Get a regular checkup from your primary care provider so you can monitor your weight, body mass index, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure to determine if you are at risk for developing chronic medical conditions like type 2 diabetes. 

If you or a loved one are looking for help creating a weight-loss plan, the providers at Journey Clinic at Norman Regional Health System may be able to help. The comprehensive program includes both medical and surgical options for patients wanting to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.