November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and this is an excellent time to take a closer look at this common condition, its potential risks, and ways you can protect yourself from it. Like many health conditions, diabetes has far-reaching consequences, but it can also be managed with better awareness and monitoring combined with lifestyle changes that promote health. Whether you have diabetes or you’re helping a loved one manage the condition, this is the month to focus on awareness and education about this common disease.
Types of diabetes
If you or a close loved one are affected by diabetes, you aren’t alone. Diabetes affects over 133 million people in the US alone, but not all people with diabetes have the same type. Typically, people with diabetes will have one of three main types:
- Type 1 diabetes – This type of diabetes occurs when the body does not make enough insulin, often due to damage to the pancreas. Though it can develop at any age, type 1 diabetes is sometimes called juvenile diabetes because it’s more commonly the type that affects children.
- Type 2 diabetes - The most common type of diabetes, type 2 occurs when the body makes enough insulin but doesn’t respond properly to it. In response, the pancreas makes more insulin, and eventually, this leads to an increase in blood sugar.
- Gestational diabetes – This form of diabetes is unique to people during pregnancy. The increased weight during pregnancy can cause some people to become insulin-resistant, and this, in turn, can trigger diabetes. About half of people who have gestational diabetes will see their blood sugar levels return to normal after delivering their babies, while the other half will develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Regardless of the type of diabetes a person has, this is a life-altering condition. It requires the individual to carefully care for their health to maintain balanced blood sugar. It also requires carefully following all recommendations from the individual's doctor to protect their health and well-being.
Understanding diabetes in women
While diabetes can affect all individuals with the condition, women and those who were assigned female at birth may have more risks than biological males. For example, the FDA warns that women with diabetes have a higher heart disease risk than men. The disease also increases the risk of vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections in women.
In addition, female hormones impact a woman’s ability to predict and manage blood sugar levels, and the cravings that come with those hormones can also impact diabetes management. Diabetes can also reduce a woman’s libido and make the vaginal area dry, which creates pain during intercourse. Finally, women who wish to become pregnant can face infertility issues due to diabetes, and if the diabetes is not well managed, they face the risk of complications and birth defects in the baby.
Because of these increased risks, women who have diabetes or who are at risk for developing the disease need to work with a healthcare team to keep blood sugar levels in proper balance. The best way to avoid these increased risks and potential complications is with good monitoring and blood sugar control. Making positive health changes, such as following a diabetic diet or increasing exercise, may also lessen this risk.
For children with diabetes, empowerment is key
Diabetes affects 283,000 children and youth in the United States, and the majority of these are type 1 diabetes patients, according to the CDC. This disease requires close monitoring and tracking, which can be hard for children. However, because diabetes is a lifelong condition, children must learn the skills they need to keep their blood sugar levels in check. Giving kids the tools they need to manage their diabetes well empowers them to embrace healthy choices and proper blood sugar monitoring throughout their lives.
The first step in empowering kids is educating them about what diabetes is and why it happens. Sadly, many misconceptions about diabetes exist, and children need to know that developing the condition is not their fault. This knowledge will help them tackle any misconceptions they hear from their friends.
Next, children should learn to monitor and check their blood sugar. While many tools, such as devices that deliver insulin via a pump or monitor blood sugar around the clock, can help, children should know how to take their own blood sugar manually should their device fail. Children also need to learn what to do if they have high or low levels.
If you’re a parent with a child who has diabetes, consider working to educate not only the child but also the other important adults in the child’s life. For example, children with diabetes may notice changes in blood sugar levels after exercise, so your child might need to advocate for a blood sugar check or snack after P.E. class. Getting all adults on board with this will help your child get the care they need and feel empowered as they do so.
Though diabetes can be a challenging diagnosis for a young child, learning to manage it is possible. Through empowerment, you can prepare your child for an adult life that they love, with diabetes not getting in the way.
Avoiding diabetes complications by prioritizing health
Regardless of age, sex, or gender, having diabetes puts a person at risk of several serious health complications. Diabetes, if left untreated, can affect every part of the body. Some possible complications include:
- Retinopathy and other eye problems
- Nerve damage in the feet (neuropathy)
- Kidney disease
- Heart attack and stroke
- Gum disease
- Hearing impairment
- Alzheimer’s disease
Each of these is just as impactful as diabetes, which means monitoring and treating diabetes needs to be a top priority for people with the condition. In addition, people with diabetes can benefit from taking measures to protect and improve their overall health, which will reduce their risk of developing these complications as well.
Support systems for diabetics
Diabetes is a challenging condition to manage, and people with diabetes benefit from a strong amount of support surrounding them. Support starts with friends and family who can encourage an individual to work toward better diabetes management and reaching their personal health goals. In addition, several organizations provide support for diabetes, including:
- The American Diabetes Association
- Children’s Diabetes Foundation
- Defeat Diabetes Foundation
- Diabetes Research Institute Foundation
You may also find support groups in your local community through your healthcare provider.
Use Evidation to reach your health goals
At Evidation, we believe in empowering individuals to make the best health decisions they can, and we’re also committed to staying at the forefront of research, supporting healthcare providers in their clinical research into life-altering conditions like diabetes.
The more tools at your disposal when managing diabetes, the better, and Evidation is one such tool. With clear guidelines and easy digital health monitoring, Evidation helps individuals reach their health goals. When managing diabetes, every healthy step you take to prioritize your wellness is critical, and Evidation is here to help. Download the app today.