11/02/2018 Diabetes Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist

Diabetes Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

9.4% of the American population suffers from diabetes, and it is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.1 Diabetes manifests as type 1 or type 2, but most people have type 2. This potentially devastating disease is affecting your co-workers, neighbors and family members across all ages and races.  

The good news is this disease is highly treatable, but it requires lifestyle changes along with medication.  And many of these lifestyle changes are not easy, but they’re well worth it.

During Diabetes Awareness Month, Supplementally Speaking reminds readers to be aware of this disease and its relationship to lifestyle, its risks and its symptoms.


Symptoms can be similar for all types; however, they’re most often identified in those suffering from type 1. People with type 2 often have symptoms so mild they go unnoticed and women with gestational diabetes rarely experience symptoms at all.2 According the American Diabetes Association, common symptoms3 include:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry - even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss - even though you are eating more (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

Type 1 Diabetes

The facts. Previously called juvenile diabetes, type 1 is most often diagnosed in kids and younger adults. In total, it impacts 5% of those with diabetes. This form of the disease triggers an autoimmune response to a virus. If a person also has a gene that causes the pancreas’ beta cells to resemble the cells of the virus, the immune system attacks those cells as well, leaving the body unable to produce insulin. If the body cannot produce insulin, a hormone needed to transport glucose from the blood to the cells for energy, diabetes results.4

The treatment. While there’s currently no cure for type 1 diabetes, the condition can be controlled with proper management of glucose and insulin levels, as well as leading a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and proper nutrition. Your healthcare provider can help you understand how certain foods affect your blood glucose levels and develop a healthy eating and movement plan that’s best for you. Support groups, online or in person, can be very helpful, too.5

What’s new? Current treatment focuses on managing high glucose levels through multiple fingertip blood draws and injections daily. But new research is aimed at prevention. Ongoing research aims at identifying type 1 diabetes before symptoms present using early biomarkers.6 Other scientists are working on the development of a “smart insulin patch” that senses early changes in glucose levels and responds by triggering insulin production to prevent them from getting too high.7

Type 2 Diabetes

The facts. In this most common form of the disease, the body experiences insulin resistance. While the pancreas may produce insulin as needed for many years, at some point, the body’s tissues become insulin resistant, and it can’t produce the amount the body needs.8 Certain populations, such as the elderly, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.9

The treatment. The severity of type 2 varies and can worsen over time. Some people are able to manage their blood glucose levels with diet and exercise, while others may require oral or injected medication.10

What’s new? In patients with diabetes type 2, groups of amyloid proteins or deposits are found within the beta cells of the pancreas and are believed to encourage the breakdown of those cells.11 New research is focused on learning how these amyloid deposits occur and lead to beta cell death with hopes results could lead to pharmaceutical development that prevents it from happening.12

Gestational Diabetes

The facts. About 9.2 percent of women develop gestational diabetes later in pregnancy, a temporary form of the disease where the mother develops high blood glucose levels, or hyperglycemia.13 Doctors aren’t certain of the cause of the condition, but believe it may have something to do with hormones from the placenta blocking the effect of insulin, causing the body to need more to control blood glucose levels.14 If left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause the baby to experience high blood glucose as well and trigger their pancreas to produce more insulin in order to control it. This can lead to larger babies with physical challenges during the birth process, low glucose at birth due to high production of insulin in utero and a greater risk for diabetes later in life.15

The treatment. Women with gestational diabetes should work closely with their doctor and dietician to monitor glucose levels, follow a special diet and get regular exercise.16  Sometimes, insulin injections are also needed.17 Working together, the impact of gestational diabetes on the baby is minimized.

Looking ahead. It’s important to note that women who have had gestational diabetes in one pregnancy have a 2 in 3 chance of having it with a subsequent one.18 There also seems to be a correlation between gestational diabetes and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.19 The American Diabetes Association recommends maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting fat to 30 percent of your daily intake and exercising regularly to help mitigate future risk.20


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2017.
2,3 “Diabetes Symptoms.” American Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association, 1 June 2015.
4, 6 Dugas, Rebecca. “New Type 1 Diabetes Treatment and Prevention Options on the Horizon.” Diabetes Daily, Diabetes Daily, LLC, 12 May 2017.
5 “Living With Type 1 Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association, 21 Nov. 2016.
7 “Type 1 Research Highlights.” American Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association.
8-10 “Facts About Type 2.” American Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association, 27 Oct. 2015.
11,12 “Study Uncovers Potential New Ways to Prevent Beta Cell Death in Type 2 Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association, 10 Aug. 2015.
13-20 “What Is Gestational Diabetes?” American Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association, 21 Nov. 2016.

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