Editor’s note: Memorial Health University Physicians will have free diabetes screenings from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Richmond Hill Family Practice on Highway 17.
In the United States, 26 million people have diabetes, but 7 million of them don’t know it.
Identifying those individuals and teaching them how to live with the disease is the goal of the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Alert Day on Tuesday.
There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational. The disorder occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that converts glucose into energy. Left untreated, diabetes can cause kidney failure, amputations, blindness, heart disease and stroke. It is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes require daily injections of insulin to live. If you have type 1 diabetes, you may experience frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss and extreme fatigue and irritability.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form, affecting 90 percent to 95 percent of those with diabetes. If diagnosed early enough, it may be controlled with diet, exercise and weight loss. It may require oral medications and/or insulin injections, as well.
Type 2 diabetes often has no symptoms, but some people may experience any of the type 1 symptoms along with frequent infections, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling and numbness in the hands or feet and recurring skin, gum or bladder infections.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy in women who have never been diagnosed with diabetes. Usually, it goes away after delivery. It can be controlled with diet, exercise and careful monitoring of weight gain during the pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes have a 35-60 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Some groups have a higher risk for developing diabetes. African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are two times more likely to get the disease and suffer serious complications. Those ages 45-64 have the highest rate of diagnosis in this country. There are 362,000 South Carolina residents living with diabetes.
It’s important to remember that early detection, education and treatment can save your life. Memorial Health University Physicians offices in Georgia and South Carolina are offering free diabetes screenings on Diabetes Alert Day. On Tuesday, drop by MHUP — Richmond Hill Family Practice between 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at 2429 Highway 17 S. in Richmond Hill. No appointment is necessary.
Brassard is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She is the program coordinator of the Memorial Metabolic Institute at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah.