It’s important to understand diabetes and work with your health care professionals to prevent or manage the disease. If left untreated or treated improperly, this chronic disease can lead to serious complications and premature death.
- What is diabetes?
- How serious is diabetes?
- What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
- What are the risk factors for developing diabetes?
- What can I do to help prevent developing diabetes or to manage it well?
What is diabetes?
Diabetes relates to blood levels of sugar (glucose) and of insulin, which helps the body use glucose as an energy source.
Diabetes occurs when the body either can’t produce insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it produces. This results in high blood glucose levels, which can damage blood vessels, nerves and organs and lead to debilitating conditions and premature death.
More than 20 people are diagnosed with the disease every hour and nine million Canadians are living with either diabetes or prediabetes.
Diabetes is categorized into three main types:
- In Type 1, the body can’t produce insulin. Type 1 is usually diagnosed in children and teens but it can occur in some adults with immune system issues. About 10 per cent of people living with diabetes have Type 1.
- In Type 2, the body can’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t effectively use the insulin it produces. Type 2 usually develops in adulthood. About 90 per cent of people living with diabetes have Type 2.
- Gestational diabetes occurs during approximately two to 20 per cent of pregnancies in Canada and disappears within six weeks of delivery.
How serious is diabetes?
If diabetes is left untreated or not managed properly, it can result in a variety of complications that include heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and lower limb amputation and lead to premature death.
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
Signs and symptoms of diabetes include:
- Unusually high level of thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight change (loss or gain)
- Blurred vision
- Extreme lack of energy or tiredness
- Frequent and/or recurring infections
- Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
- Impotence (erection difficulties)
It’s important to report any of these symptoms to your medical professional immediately. Many people can have Type 2 diabetes without noticing any signs or symptoms, so it’s also important to get regular checkups to help prevent or manage diabetes.
What are the risk factors for developing diabetes?
Diabetes can affect children of all ages. Adults with immune system issues may also be at risk. The best way to ensure early detection is to keep regular check-up appointments and monitor your child – or yourself if you’re at risk – for signs and symptoms.
Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:
- Excess weight or obesity
- Age (40 or older)
- High blood glucose level
- High cholesterol level
- High blood pressure
- Physically inactive lifestyle
- Family history of diabetes
- Ethnic background
You can have Type 2 diabetes without noticing any signs or symptoms. Be sure to get regular checkups to help prevent or manage diabetes.
Up to 30 per cent of women who experience gestational diabetes will develop diabetes within 15 years, and it may also increase the child’s risk of developing the disease. Receive regular Type 2 diabetes screening to help ensure good health and healthy future pregnancies.
Important note about prediabetes
Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are above normal but not yet high enough to lead to a diabetes diagnosis.
Almost 50 per cent of the estimated 5.4 million Canadians living with prediabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes. Research has also shown that some long-term complications associated with diabetes, including heart disease, may begin with prediabetes.
What can I do to help prevent developing diabetes or to manage it well?
There are many ways you can manage your lifestyle to reduce risks of developing the disease or of increasing its severity.
- Managing your weight through healthy food choices and regular exercise
- Monitoring and managing your blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels
- Having regular check-ups
- Working closely with your health care team to avoid risks or manage your condition through careful planning and, in some cases, medication
- Learning all you can about diabetes
Talk with one of our pharmacists or your medical professional for more information.