AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Five hundred and thirty thousand Alabamians have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) calls this disease “a serious health condition which can result in limb amputation, the need for dialysis or even death.” To bring awareness and highlight what life is like for those diagnosed, November is recognized as American Diabetes Month.
What is diabetes?
Tera Glenn, an Alabama Extension human sciences regional agent, said diabetes is a disease that deals with the lack of production or the improper use of insulin in the body. There are three main types of diabetes including Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes.
- Type 1 – the body does not produce insulin (usually diagnosed in children and adolescents)
- Type 2 – the body does not produce enough insulin or it is not properly used by the body (most common type)
- Gestational diabetes – This type usually occurs during pregnancy. Once the mother delivers the baby, the diabetes goes away. However, this is a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Glenn said while Type 1 diabetes is hereditary, there are several risk factors that contribute to a Type 2 diagnosis. These factors may include age, race, a person’s family history of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and being overweight.
“Having a family history of diabetes is a risk factor for developing diabetes,” Glenn said. “However, this does not mean that you will automatically develop diabetes just because it is in your family genetic history.”
Effects on the body
“Diabetes can affect the whole body, including many major organs such as the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys,” Glenn said. “If not properly managed, it can cause a person numerous complications and major damage to the body.”
One complication that is possible is neuropathy, a pain or tingling numbness in the extremities, most commonly in the feet. Other complications include blindness, poor kidney function and gum disease. Unmanaged diabetes can also put a person at a great risk for a stroke and heart disease.
The Alabama Extension human sciences team commits to providing Alabama residents with fact-based information about diabetes. Through the Diabetes Empowerment Education Program (DEEP), professionals offer educational programs and classes to assist those living with diabetes.
“Diabetes is a serious disease that affects not only the person with diabetes, but their entire family as well,” Glenn said. “DEEP empowers people living with diabetes to take control of their situations.”
Through education, a person with diabetes can learn the tools needed to prevent the costly complications related to diabetes. The DEEP classes offer an engaging and interactive learning environment. In these classes, attendees will learn about health management strategies and lifestyle choices as they relate to diabetes.
For more information about DEEP, or to see a list of upcoming workshops, visit the Diabetes Empowerment Education Program (DEEP) page on the Alabama Extension website. For further information, contact the human nutrition, diet and health agent that covers your area.
Information about the 2020 American Diabetes Month® campaign is available on the American Diabetes Association website.