All About Diabetes

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By Kacie Bittner 

Diabetes Awareness Month gives organizations like IRIS an elevated opportunity to educate and spread important messages about patients’ overall health with diabetes. 

IRIS was founded in 2011 when retina specialist Dr. Sunil Gupta became frustrated by the high number of diabetic patients he saw with existing and irreversible vision loss, which was a direct result of late detection of this disease.  Since then, our company mission has guided IRIS, which is to end preventable blindness, and we accomplish this by partnering with health care organizations to increase patient access to diabetic teleretinal evaluations.  IRIS is honored to play a role in the overall wellbeing of diabetic patients as we join in recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month.

There are multiple types of diabetes, all of which are increasing among people of all ages at alarming rates. This makes diabetes awareness month more critical than ever. Per the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) National Diabetes Statistics Report for 2020, there are now an estimated 34.2 million cases of diabetes in the United States – that’s 10.5% of the total population.

There are three main types of diabetes:

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes is believed to be an autoimmune condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the beta cells in your pancreas. These cells are the source of your body’s insulin production, and the attacks cause permanent damage. 

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes begins as insulin resistance, meaning your body can’t use insulin correctly. This, in turn, stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin until it can no longer keep up with demand. Insulin production then drops in response, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Gestational

Gestational diabetes is caused by insulin-blocking hormones produced during pregnancy. This type of diabetes only occurs during pregnancy.

Not only has the number of diabetes diagnoses increased dramatically over the past several decades, but cases of prediabetes are also on the rise. In 2018, an estimated 88 million adults aged 18 or older had prediabetes–with over 84% unaware of their condition.

People with prediabetes experience higher than normal blood sugar levels but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Though not yet diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic, people with prediabetes also demonstrate an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Aside from the challenges of living with the disease itself, diabetes can also cause a host of additional health complications.  We’ve summarized below some of the various diabetes complications shared by the American Diabetes Association.

Common Diabetes-Related Conditions

Skin complications are often one of the first signs that a person has diabetes. Diabetes-related skin conditions include acanthosis nigricansdiabetic dermopathy, and diabetic blisters, among others.  Fortunately, most skin conditions can be prevented or treated if caught early.

Eye complications such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular edema, and diabetic retinopathy can be found in people with diabetes. In addition, people with diabetes are at a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes. However, with regular evaluation, most eye diseases caused by diabetes can be treated in the early stages, and vision loss can be prevented. For more information on eye complications from diabetes, click here. 

Neuropathy is damage to the nerves caused by diabetes. About half of all people with diabetes experience some nerve damage, and it’s more common the longer you’ve had the disease. Two common types of diabetic neuropathy are peripheral and autonomic. Peripheral neuropathy causes tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in your feet and hands. Autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves in your body that control functions like blood pressure, heart rate, and digestion. 

DKA (ketoacidosis) is a serious condition that can lead to diabetic coma or even death. DKA, or ketoacidosis, is caused by high levels of ketones that can poison the body. DKA can happen to anyone with diabetes but is most often seen in people with type 1 diabetes.

Kidney disease s caused by diabetes when high levels of blood sugar make the kidneys filter too much blood. All this extra work is hard on the filters, and after many years, they can start to leak. When leakage occurs, useful proteins become lost in the urine. When diagnosed early, several treatment options may keep kidney disease from worsening. However, a person will either require a kidney transplant or dialysis at the point of kidney failure. 

High Blood Pressure is prevalent in two-thirds of people with diabetes in America. High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder than necessary, increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, and other complications. High blood pressure will not go away without treatment. Treatment can include lifestyle and dietary changes, or sometimes medication. 

Strokes happen when the blood supply to part of your brain is suddenly interrupted. Most strokes happen because a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain or neck. If you have diabetes, your chances of having a stroke are 1.5 times higher than people without diabetes.

Treatment & Prevention

Though the statistics and health complications associated with diabetes can be daunting, it’s important to remember that there are many ways to manage diabetes.

Lifestyle changes such as implementing an exercise routine and changing your diet can have a significant positive impact. Some people with diabetes will require medication such as insulin, which becomes a crucial piece of diabetes management.

With more than 1 in 10 Americans living with a diabetes diagnosis, it’s safe to say the disease is prevalent in our society. So let’s work together—this November and beyond–to better understand the condition and help ourselves and each other when we can!

To learn more about diabetic retinopathy, visit our resources page!

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