November is Diabetes Awareness Month. According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov), 29.1 million Americans (9.3 percent) have diabetes. More than 8 million of these are undiagnosed, meaning 27.8 percent of diabetes sufferers are unaware they have the disease. Diabetes also tops out as one of the most pressing health issues facing Louisianians.
“If you lose just 10-15 pounds, it can have a significant impact in reducing your risk for type 2 diabetes.”
A Costly Proposition
Diabetes, like all chronic illnesses, is also expensive. Lesley Davis, a Type 1 diabetic since age 2, says she paid a total of $5,233.84 out of pocket last year despite having insurance.
“If you get paid twice a month, that’s about an extra $218 per paycheck that it costs me just to be alive, which is beyond frustrating,” Davis says.
How does it cost so much? A lot goes into managing diabetes. Test strips range from $25 to $150 every three months. Insulin pumps last approximately four years on average, but a new one can cost up to $3000 — even with insurance. Reservoirs and infusion sets can cost about $500 every three months.
At a glance
Diabetes happens when a person’s body doesn’t make enough insulin or the insulin doesn’t work properly, causing glucose to stay in the blood without reaching cells. Symptoms include the following:
• frequent urination
• feeling very hungry,
thirsty or tired
• dry, itchy skin
• numbness in feet (or a
feeling of pins and needles)
• blurred vision
These symptoms are not always present, so a blood test must be performed for diagnosis. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is when a body does not make insulin or enough insulin. Type 1 diabetics have to take insulin, usually in the form of an injection.
Type 2 diabetes more often develops in middle-aged and older people. It begins with insulin resistance, when fat, muscle and liver cells fail to use insulin properly. Risk factors include being overweight, having high cholesterol levels, smoking and eating an unhealthy diet. Mitigating these factors will reduce your risk. Thankfully, many hospitals are becoming more proactive about recognizing when a person is pre-diabetic (on the verge of developing Type 2) and stopping it before it develops into diabetes.
“If you lose just 10-15 pounds, it can have a significant impact in reducing your risk for Type 2 diabetes,” says Sarah Kirkpatrick, RN diabetic nurse educator for Lafayette General Health.
One other tip Kirkpatrick recommends for diabetics is to check your feet daily. Because numbness is common, a diabetic can easily step on a sharp object without realizing it, causing serious injury.