Diabetes awareness

It’s a common news item these days – more and more people are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and that trend is expected to rise as the years pass. It’s bad news on the health front obviously, and also on provincial coffers. A study commissioned by the Canadian Diabetes Association estimates that by 2020, 363,000 Albertans will be diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

In terms of dollars, that amounts to $1.6 billion.

In the fight to both raise funds for research and spread awareness about diabetes in general, November has been designated ‘Diabetes Awareness Month’

The Canadian Diabetes Association and the Alberta Association of Optometrists, are teaming up to educate Red Deer residents about the risk factors associated with the development of the disease.

Type 1 diabetes prevents the body from making insulin and Type 2 diabetes prevents the body from properly using insulin, explained Debra Jakubec, regional director Alberta and Northwest Territories at the Canadian Diabetes Association. This in turn, leads to high levels of sugar in the bloodstream, which causes damage to organs, blood vessels and nerves, she said.

While researchers continue to work hard to understand the cause of Type 1 diabetes, Type 2, is known to be caused by a number of factors, which may include genetics, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Diabetes and its complications can also affect many parts of the eye, the most serious being diabetic retinopathy, which left untreated, can result in blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels in the eye, resulting in blood leakage and the growth of new blood vessels, said Dr. Jason Holtom from The Eye Studio. “In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy is monitored through eye health examinations – but if necessary, it may be treated with intraocular injections or laser therapy that seals off leaking blood vessels.”

As physicians point out, like most chronic diseases, early detection of diabetes and proper care of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels are key to decreasing complications and improving an individual’s quality of life.

Symptoms run the gamut from unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight change (gain or loss), extreme fatigue or lack of energy, blurred vision, frequent or recurring infections, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet among others.

Physicians point out that if a person has any of these symptoms, they should head to their doctor right away. Even if you don’t have symptoms, if you are 40 or older, you should still get checked. It’s also important to recognize that many people who have Type 2 diabetes may display no symptoms.