Diabetes Alert Day

WebMD Live Events Transcript

According to the American Diabetes Association, 18.2 million people in America have diabetes. But 5.2 million of them have yet to be diagnosed because diabetes is a silent disease. Could you be one of them? Diabetes Alert Day is a call to action you can't afford to ignore. Brunilda Nazario, MD, joined us on March 22 to answer your questions.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Welcome to WebMD Live, Dr. Nazario. Thank you for joining us today. It's Diabetes Alert Day. If there was only one thing you wanted everyone to know about diabetes, what would it be?

One thing we should all know about diabetes is a little care goes a long way. The small steps we take today make huge steps in the quality of our life tomorrow, especially when it comes to diabetes.

My brother has diabetes and apparently had it for many years without knowing it. My mom had diabetes too. She was on dialysis for 2 years, taking insulin as needed and just passed away suddenly. My brother is 52 years old, has already had a four-way bypass, is having multiple surgeries on blocked arteries in the legs and the carotid artery is blocked too. What should I be doing besides buying life insurance since I am a single 49-year-old mother of a 9-year-old?

The last current estimates hold there are 18 million people diagnosed with diabetes. There are about 5.2 million who have diabetes and don't know it. So what you described is very common, especially with type 2 diabetes. It is a chronic disease which comes on slowly. Many times the complications of the disease such as nerve damage, eye problems, kidney problems or even heart complications are diagnosed prior to someone suspecting diabetes as the cause.

In order to prevent the complications, you should be screened for diabetes. You have a strong family history of the disease and you should look at other risk factors including your physical activity level, whether you're in a high-risk ethnic group, whether you are overweight or obese, etc. A screening test is something as simple as a fasting blood test done in the lab. If it's elevated, meaning more than 126, you have diabetes. If it's greater than 100, you have an impaired fasting glucose otherwise known as prediabetes, which puts you at a very high risk of developing diabetes.

There are steps you can take to prevent the transition from prediabetes to diabetes. Look at the risk factors that you have and which ones can be modified. In other words, if you are an inactive person, work out a schedule of regular exercise. That will help reduce your weight, improve your body's use of glucose and insulin, improve your heart risk factors, and reduce your risk of diabetes and ultimately the consequences of the disease.

"People with type 2 diabetes are usually diagnosed in the physician's office and in hindsight because many complications of the disease can be explained by having diabetes years before that visit."

What are some of the symptoms of the onset of diabetes?

It really depends on whether you're talking about type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Type 1 comes on quite gradually and it typically comes on in the older, overweight and sedentary individual. With the increase in childhood obesity, what's happening is we're seeing type 2 diabetes at earlier and earlier ages. The symptoms can be gradual. They can present as complications, either eye, kidney, heart problems or they can present as the sugars increase, to a point where you get excess urination, dehydration, thirst, headaches, blurred vision, and numbness in the hands and feet. Men can have symptoms of sexual dysfunction or impotency, etc.

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