New statistics have been released about diabetes in the United States and the numbers are not good. According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, released on June 10, 2014, 29.1 million people (9.3% of the population) in the U.S. have diabetes. Can this number be worse? Yes, it can and it is. Of those 29.1 million people, 8.1 million (27.8%) are undiagnosed - they don't know they have diabetes. These numbers have risen since the last report in 2010 when 18.8 million of Americans had diabetes; 7 million were not diagnosed.
Why should we be concerned? There is no cure for diabetes, only management. People with insulin dependent diabetes have to take daily injections of insulin to help control their blood glucose (sugar) levels. Non-insulin dependent diabetes is controlled with oral medications, diet, and exercise. But diabetes isn't just a disease that causes your body to have too much glucose in the blood. The high levels of glucose end up damaging the rest of your body, from your eyes to the nerves in your toes. For example, people with diabetes are at higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and more. Cuts and sores can take longer to heal, which increases the risk of infection and sepsis. The damage in the blood vessels in the eyes can lead to blindness.
Type 1 diabetes, what used to be called juvenile diabetes, is not preventable. Scientists don't yet know what causes it, but the pancreas stops producing insulin, which breaks down the blood glucose. Because insulin can't be taken in pill form (it won't work through the digestive system), people with type 1 diabetes must inject themselves with insulin, watch their diet, and keep as healthy as possible for the rest of their life.
Check to see if you are at risk of developing diabetes over at the ADA website or at the Canadian Diabetes Association. If you think you are, perhaps a visit to the doctor or nurse practitioner may be a good next step.