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When your doctor drops the D-bomb: Diabetes

Your doctor says you have diabetes. And you immediately think, he must be mistaken.

You feel fine. Tired? Sure, but that Daylight Savings Time can be a killer. OK, maybe you have needed a lot more coffee lately. And a lot of water—but everyone knows that coffee can dehydrate you! Frequent urination? Well, yeah, but coffee and water can be the cause of that. Constant hunger? You prefer to think of it as a healthy appetite.

The point is - you’re blindsided. Honestly, you only got tested because they offered an incentive at work to anyone who got a biometric screening.

So, what is diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the pancreas, a gland behind the stomach, either does not produce enough of the insulin hormone, or your body can’t use it properly. Since insulin helps to carry sugar from the bloodstream into the cells, which is then converted to energy that fuels bodily functions, it can wreak havoc on your body when something is off.

Ok, well that explains the tired thing. So how did you get it?

It depends on the type of diabetes you have contracted. Type 1 diabetes is partly inherited, then triggered by environmental factors. The onset of this type is unrelated to lifestyle—unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent it.

Type 2 diabetes is a little different. Though genetics are involved to a degree, this type can be largely attributed to the lifestyle you lead. There are a number of factors that can influence its development: poor diet, stress, obesity, a lack of physical activity, to name a few. Look at it this way - the unhealthier your lifestyle, the more likely you are to develop type 2 diabetes.

So is it a big deal?

In a word, yes.

When uncontrolled, either type of diabetes can trigger a number of serious medical conditions—stroke, heart disease, coma and kidney failure, to name a few. It is very important that you work with your doctor to carefully manage the disorder. This may require the care of more than just a primary physician; diabetes patients have been known to see ophthalmologists, podiatrists, endocrinologists and dieticians, among others, to assist in their care.

Well, what do you do about it?

All people with diabetes need to control their condition with proper diet and exercise. Depending on the type of diabetes, patients may also need to measure their glucose levels regularly and take oral medications or insulin injections to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

Why me? Why only me?

You’re not alone. An estimated 26 million Americans are currently living with diabetes, and all forms of the disorder are treatable. There are many simple changes you can make to your daily routine, such as reducing mental stress, to help eliminate potential complications before they become serious.