November is Diabetes Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Maj. Donnell Nicks
  • 49th Medical Group Health Care Integrator
One of the many observances for the month of November is one that should not be overlooked -- diabetes awareness. Many of us know someone who battles this disease every day.

This year, the American Diabetes Association reported 23.6 million of 305.5 million Americans have diabetes. When not properly controlled, diabetes can lead to blindness, heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, amputation; slow or poor-healing wounds; and impotence in men.

The longer an individual has diabetes, the more likely they will suffer from one of these conditions. For this reason, overweight children and young adults are at increased risk. Parents who permit their children to become fat or obese contribute to their future health problems.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, the hormone responsible for converting sugar, starches, and other food into energy needed to fuel the body.

In diabetes, too much sugar stays in the blood and this is unhealthy for two reasons: First, your body's cells become starved because insufficient insulin is secreted to convert sugar into energy. Second, too much sugar in your blood damages your nerves, eyes, kidneys, heart, and eventually even the blood vessels.

Diabetes is characterized into four different types: Type I, Type II, gestational and secondary.

Type I: Doctors aren't quite sure what causes Type I diabetes. It might appear at birth or perhaps it is not noticeable or detected until later in life. Type I diabetes affects five to 10 percent of the population. It is not preventable, but it can often be controlled through proper diet and medication. Parents should be aware of the symptoms of this type of diabetes and promptly seek medical attention, if need be. Symptoms of Type I diabetes include: overwhelming thirst that doesn't go away with drinking fluids; frequent and/or uncontrollable urination; weight loss or weight gain; nausea or vomiting; and fatigue.

Type II: People with this diabetic type are not born with it but acquire it, usually through obesity. Bodies with too much fat composition cannot properly create the insulin needed to convert sugar into energy. People who are at risk of getting Type II diabetes include those who are overweight or do not exercise; people 55 or older; African-American or Latino; anyone with a parent, brother or sister who has diabetes; and people with a history of high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol. The common symptoms of Type II diabetes are fatigue, blurred vision, impotence in men, slow-healing infections or sores, frequent and/or uncontrollable urination and thirst that doesn't go away even with adequate fluid intake.

Ironically, Type II is the most common and yet the most preventable type of diabetes as over 90 percent of diabetics are this type. Sadly, children represent the fastest growing Type II diabetic population since they are now fatter, on average, than children of a generation ago.

Gestational diabetes: Some women acquire gestational diabetes when they become pregnant. This diabetic type occurs in about four percent of all pregnant women. By stabilizing blood sugar levels through the proper balance of dietary carbohydrates, proteins and fats, this form of diabetes can usually be controlled.

Secondary diabetes: The fourth type of diabetes is known as secondary diabetes. This type refers to elevated blood sugar levels resulting from another medical condition other than diabetes. Trauma and hormonal imbalances are two examples of medical conditions that can raise the body's blood sugar above the normal level.

If you think you are developing diabetes or have diabetes, it is important to have a full medical screening and regularly scheduled follow-ups.

Diabetes can be managed when individuals begin making lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising regularly and eating a well balanced diet. The emphasis on a diabetic diet should be to limit the total amount of consumed carbohydrates since they have the largest effect on blood sugar levels. Additionally, the diet should be low in fat, low in sugar and high in fiber. A nutritionist can provide more specifics in this area.

Lastly, smoking and drinking complicates the diabetes disease process. Stop smoking and if you drink alcohol, drink only moderate amounts.

To learn more about diabetes resources and publications please visit or If you would like to attend a diabetes management seminar, contact me, Maj. Donnell Nicks, at 575-572-7652.