Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and premature death
in the United States. If not controlled, it can cause blindness, nerve
damage, kidney disease and other health problems. During American Diabetes
Month, observed every November, the American Diabetes Association (ADA)
draws attention to diabetes and its effects on millions of patients and
their families. The ADA mission is to promote prevention, treatment and
research programs, and ultimately find a cure. Despite the 41% increase
in spending on diabetes, the disease continues to grow. Here are a few
> Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes;
that’s about one in every 11 Americans. And many don’t even know it.
> Another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing
type 2 diabetes.
> There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type
2. Approximately 3 million Americans have type 1, an autoimmune disease
in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables
people to get energy from food. Type 1 used to be called juvenile diabetes.
But now only 15% of Americans with type 1 are children, and about 15,000
adults are diagnosed each year. Type 1 is managed through insulin injections.
> People with type 2 diabetes makeinsulin, but their cells don’t use
it as well as they should. Doctors call this insulin resistance. At first
their pancreas makes more insulin to try and get glucose into their cells.
But eventually it can’t keep up, and the sugar builds up in the
bloodstream instead, leading to complications.
> The good news? People at high risk for type 2 diabetes can lower their
risk by more than half if they make healthy lifestyle changes. Some risk
factors are not controllable. They include: AGE: 45 or older
GENETICS: A parent, sister or brother with diabetes
ETHNICITY: African-American, Alaska Native, Native American, Asian-American,
Hispanic or Latino, or Pacific Islander-American
> Symptoms of diabetes are frequent urination, increased thirst, extreme
fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision and slow healing of cuts.
The onset of type 1 is often sudden; type 2 symptoms usually develop over time.
Torrance Memorial endocrinologist Trans Ly, MD, feels hopeful about ongoing
research and new treatments for both types: “Within the past several
years we have already made strides in the management of diabetes with
new medications. Increasing research into type 2 diabetes shows that the
environment we live in plays an integral role in whether or not diabetes
develops, possibly through the actions of the stress hormone cortisol.
A recent type 1 study has identified a possible modification in insulin
that triggers an immune response. Until we fully understand the complex
mechanisms of glucose metabolism, it is important for individuals with
diabetes to continue to be mindful of dietary carbohydrate intake.”