Health Library ~ Family Medicine in Mullica Hill, NJ

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Living With Diabetes

Ranked as our nation's seventh leading cause of death, diabetes afflicts approximately 15.6 million Americans.  Often described as the silent killer, diabetes can, if left untreated, lead to kidney failure, gangrene and amputation, stroke and many other serious health problems.  Although there are several forms of diabetes, Type I and Type II diabetes are the most common in the United States.

"While many Americans are affected by diabetes, only 35 percent of them know they have it," explains Craig M. Wax, D.O., an osteopathic family physician.  "This is unfortunate since screenings are easy to perform and advances in medicine enable us to treat diabetes."

The most common form of diabetes in the United States is Type II diabetes, affecting 14.9 million people.  Essentially, Type II diabetes occurs as result of insulin resistance, a condition in which the body fails to make enough, or to properly use insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that enables glucose to enter and fuel body cells.

The risk of having Type II diabetes increases with age.  "If you are 45 or older you should ask your physician if you are at risk for Type II diabetes," suggests Dr. Wax.  "There are several indicators we can use to assess your level of risk."

Type II diabetes risk indicators include:
Family history
Previously identified impaired glucose tolerance
High Cholesterol
History of gestational diabetes
Giving birth to a baby over nine lbs.

"The sooner we are able to screen for and diagnose the disease, the more damage we can prevent," points our Dr. Wax.  Often, people with Type II diabetes who practice healthy eating habits and do sufficient amounts of physical activity can prevent the need to ever have to rely on insulin injections for survival.

While Type II diabetes accounts for 90-95 percent of all diabetes cases, Type I diabetes is the most common form of diabetes among children, usually diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 12.  Also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, it destroys the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing the hormone insulin.

While symptoms vary between individuals, common signs and symptoms of Type I diabetes include:
High levels of sugar in the blood and urine
Weight loss
Extreme hunger and thirst
Weakness and exhaustion
Irritability and mood swings
Nausea and vomiting

Insulin infusions are a necessity for Type I diabetics, as well as regular glucose tests which allow individuals to monitor their glucose levels.

To test glucose, a drop of blood from the finger is placed on a special test strip. A device called a glucose monitor measures the level of glucose in the blood.  "Regular glucose testing, a diet that is low in sugars and fat, and regular exercise is essential for Type I diabetics to lead healthy and productive lives," stresses Dr. Wax.

Since birth control pills can influence blood glucose levels, having an adverse affect on diabetes control, women with diabetes who take birth control need to discuss this matter with their physician.

In addition to Types I and II diabetes, gestational diabetes is a form of the disease that occurs halfway through a pregnancy as a result of excessive hormone production in the body.  It can also be attributed to the pancreas' inability to make the additional insulin that is needed during pregnancy.  "Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy, but leaves women who had it at an increased risk for later developing Type II diabetes," asserts Dr. Wax.

In addition, a small percentage of diabetes cases resulting from surgery, chemicals, drugs, malnutrition, infections, viruses and other illnesses has also been identified.

The osteopathic approach, which focuses on treating the entire patient, not just the symptoms, can be of great value to those that are at risk for, or have been diagnosed with diabetes. "I examine my patients' complete family medical histories and daily health choices allowing me to familiarize myself with their backgrounds and incorporate dietary and exercise guidelines that will work with their lifestyles," says Dr. Wax referring to how he incorporates the osteopathic philosophy into his practice.   "If youíre a diabetic, itís crucial that you visit your physician regularly to develop a diet and exercise regimen right for you."

Craig M. Wax, DO, LLC of Mullica Hill, NJ provides information on health, nutrition, family medicine, preventive medicine, wellness, natural treatments, alternative medicine, integrative medicine, osteopathic medicine and just plain common sense.
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