By: Chris Ulrich RN, MSN, CNP

Diabetes is not like any other disease you may have had in the past. It does not go away like the cold or flu. Diabetes is a serious health problem; with proper care many of the complications that arise from diabetes can be prevented. Caring for diabetes is not only the responsibility of your healthcare provider. To prevent complications the diabetic needs to take a pro-active role in caring for their diabetes. Over the next two months I will be discussing complications of diabetes and how to prevent them.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Poorly controlled diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, and amputations. Uncontrolled diabetes also doubles a person's risk of heart attacks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that there are 23.6 million people that have diabetes and there are 5.7 million that have not been diagnosed.

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. In type 1 your body makes little or no insulin, and a Type 1 diabetic needs to take shots to live. With Type 2 diabetes, your body still makes insulin but is unable to utilize the insulin so you need oral medications to allow your body to properly use the insulin your body produces. Type 2 is a progressive disease and pills may not continue to remain effective to control blood sugar levels. Most Type 2 diabetics eventually will need insulin to manage their diabetes. It is important that if you have been diagnosed with diabetes that you monitor your blood sugar levels, take your medications and have regular visits with your healthcare provider.

In early stages, diabetes may often have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may come on gradually. These symptoms can include: feeling tired, increased urination, increase hunger and thirst, slow healing sores, blurred vision, numbness in feet, or frequent vaginal yeast infections. A person is more at risk of developing diabetes if they are over 40 years of age, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, have high blood pressure, or had diabetes during pregnancy. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or fall in the high risk category you should talk with your healthcare professional about screening for diabetes. Early recognition of symptoms and risk factors can decrease your risk of complications.