November 2014: Diabetes Awareness Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and an estimated 29.1 million people have diabetes in the United States.  That’s 9.3% of our population, and this number has been steadily on the rise.  The focus of Diabetes Awareness Month is to shed a spotlight on diabetes and educate the public about the risk factors, complications and management of diabetes mellitus.   During the month of November many healthcare clinics offer free diabetic checks, including blood glucose tests, foot screenings and eye exams. 

Diabetes can be accompanied by a handful of secondary complications that can range from mild to severe.  The most common areas of the body to be secondarily affected by diabetes are the eyes, feet and skin.  Diabetics commonly experience decreased sensation (neuropathy) in their feet.  This can lead to a decrease in the ability to recognize injury and can ultimately lead to infections, ulcers, and possibly amputation.  Each year over half of all amputations in the United States, most of which involve the lower extremity, are caused by complications due to diabetes.  Thankfully, diabetes linked amputations have been declining.  This is believed to be linked to improved diabetes management and better patient education. 

If you have a family history of diabetes or have any of the following risk factors, take the opportunity this month to be tested.  Diabetes is diagnosed via a fasting blood glucose level.  This test is simple and pain-free.  Taking precautionary measures now may save you from a lifetime of devastating consequences. 

Risk factors for diabetes include: family history of diabetes, obesity, inactivity, increased age, history of gestational diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be difficult and often requires a significant lifestyle adjustment.  However, on the bright side, it is a manageable disease.  The most important thing a diabetic can do is stay on top of their blood sugar levels.  If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, self-monitor your glucose levels frequently.  Good glycemic control decreases your risk for serious, long-term consequences including blindness, amputation and heart attack. 

The best outcome is achieved when patients and providers work together as a team.  Diabetics are encouraged to see a podiatrist at least once a year for an annual foot examination.  If any secondary complications arise, such as peripheral neuropathy or peripheral vascular disease, the visits will need to be more frequent.  If you or someone you know has foot issues related to diabetes, consider making an appointment with Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona.  Both doctors are highly skilled in the management of diabetic foot complications.  

To learn more about diabetes or find free screenings in your area, visit the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org

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