Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dealing with Diabetes

Blindness, amputations, kidney dialysis, chronic pain from neuropathy, heart attacks, depression and mental decline...no disease is more debilitating to so many people as is diabetes.

Two of my grandparents died of complications of Diabetes Mellitus type 2. Many of my aunts and uncles have suffered from the disease. I have a grandson who has Diabetes Mellitus type 1. A few years ago, my blood sugars were in the diabetic range, though they are now normal.

The next series of blogs are going to be on diabetes. They will be taken from my new microbook, "Diabetes: Don't Depend on the Medical System to Keep you Healthy." This e-book will be available on this site soon.

I learned about diabetes in medical school, but what we learned was, in my experience, inadequate. We were taught about medicines to help with the disease, and how to do bypass surgery and amputations when the arteries in the legs were blocked, and dialysis when the kidneys shut down, and do laser surgery for the eye complications, and how to treat the heart attacks that resulted.

But we were told that the disease was chronic and the patients would eventually die from the complications of diabetes. The only hope we had was to preserve their ability to function a little longer through medication, surgery and other interventions. We were not taught much about diet or any of the other major things that can have a tremendous impact on diabetes. There is a belief that the patient won’t stick to a diet, anyway. There was also a belief that there was nothing that could prevent the disease.

In 2007 the American Diabetic Association estimated that there were 17.5 million people in the United States that had been diagnosed with diabetes, and an additional 5.8 million that have not yet been diagnosed but still have the disease (for a total of about 8% of the population, or 10% of those 20 and older). The numbers are rising rapidly, and the age of onset is becoming younger. Almost 200 thousand teenagers are now suffering with Diabetes type 2, which used to be a disease of older adults.

From an economic perspective, the total annual cost of diabetes in 2007 was estimated to be over $174 billion dollars in the United States, a per capita cost of $17,750.00. 2.7 million days of hospital stay a year, and 28.6 million physician office visits were attributed to diabetes. Remember, these numbers reflect only the population in the United States. Globally, the statistics are staggering and growing rapidly.

Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States; however, the first leading cause of death, heart disease, is often related to diabetes. Clearly, the medical mainstream has not found the answers to this rapidly growing and enormously expensive and deadly problem. The medications help lower blood sugar but often do not reduce the problems associated with diabetes. The medical community does very little to prevent diabetes and claims to not know the cause except for genetics. However, most people being diagnosed with diabetes today have not had it in their families.

Because this disease has personal implications to me, I have taken up a study of diabetes. I have learned a lot more than what I learned in medical school and I would like to share what I have learned with you: what diabetes is, what it does to your body, how to prevent it, and the many ways to treat it, some better than others.

I feel that it is tremendously important for people with diabetes, or who have diabetes in their families, to understand their bodies and to understand the disease, so they can take control of their own prevention and treatment, assisting the doctors who are treating them, rather than completely depending on the doctors to do it for them. I am not advocating that people with diabetes stop seeing their doctors. Medical care is important. But I am advocating that patients take a greater role in their own care, bringing things to their doctors’ attention so that their care can be improved.

My next blog will answer, "What is Diabetes?"

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi

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