Living with Diabetes

Ranked as our nation’s sixth-leading cause of death, diabetes affects approximately 23.6 million Americans, according to the American Diabetes Association. Often described as the silent killer, diabetes can -- if left untreated -- lead to kidney failure; loss of vision; gangrene and amputation; stroke; and many other serious health problems. Although there are several forms of diabetes, type I and type II diabetes are the most common in the United States.

While many Americans are affected by diabetes, nearly a quarter of the people that have the disease are unaware that they have it. This is unfortunate since screenings are easy to perform and advances in medicine enable us to treat diabetes.

The most common form of diabetes in the United States is type II diabetes, affecting between 90-95 percent of all people with diabetes. Essentially, type II diabetes occurs as result of insulin resistance, a condition in which the body fails to make enough, or to properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that enables glucose to enter and fuel body cells.

This form of diabetes often is associated with older age, obesity, a family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity and ethnicity. About 80 percent of people with type II diabetes are overweight. Regardless of risk factors a person may have, the sooner we are able to screen for and diagnose the disease, the more damage we can prevent. Often, people with type II diabetes who practice healthy eating habits and do sufficient amounts of physical activity probably won’t ever have to rely on insulin injections for survival.

While type II diabetes accounts for the vast majority of all diabetes cases, type I diabetes is the most common form of diabetes among children and young adults. Also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, it results from the destruction of the cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for producing the hormone insulin.

While symptoms vary from individual to individual, common signs and indicators of type I diabetes include increased thirst and urination, constant hunger, weight loss, blurred vision and extreme fatigue. If not diagnosed and treated with insulin, a person with type 1 diabetes can lapse into a life-threatening diabetic coma.

Insulin infusions are a necessity for type I diabetics, as well as regular glucose tests which allow individuals to monitor their glucose levels. Regular glucose testing, a diet that is low in sugars and fat, and regular exercise are essential for type I diabetics who want to lead healthy and productive lives. If you’re a diabetic, it’s crucial that you visit your physician regularly to develop a diet and exercise regimen that’s right for you.

Prevention is key, and for osteopathic physicians (D.O.s), preventive medicine is just one aspect of care. Osteopathic physicians are fully licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas including surgery. D.O.s are trained to consider the health of the whole person and use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients.

For more information about health and wellness programs for business and industry, call 865-977-5795.

Dr. Daniel Callan is a board-certified occupational medicine physician with Blount Memorial Business Health and the Blount Memorial Occupational Health Centers at Springbrook and Tellico West. Additional board certifications focus on environmental medicine, aerospace medicine and family medicine.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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