VA North Texas Health Care System
Don’t Tiptoe around Diabetes
Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not effectively use sugar. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million Americans have diabetes. Of those, more than 8 million have not yet been diagnosed.
Diabetes occurs when you have too much glucose, or sugar, in your blood. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With Type 1 diabetes, your body does not make sufficient insulin. With Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood.
Signs of early diabetes include increased thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, and numbness or tingling in your hands or feet. Diabetes is not contagious. People cannot “catch” it from each other.
Over time, uncontrolled diabetes can cause nerve damage, blindness, kidney damage, and heart disease that can lead to death. High blood sugar also causes blood vessels to narrow and harden, reducing blood flow essential to the healing process. Poor circulation damages peripheral nerves, causing a condition known as diabetic neuropathy or the loss of sensation in the arms and legs. The loss of feeling - including the ability to feel pain - means a small cut on your leg or a blister on your foot can go unnoticed and untreated until it has become infected.
“No matter how small or superficial a wound is, you should not ignore it if you have diabetes,” said Associate Chief of Staff for Ambulatory Care Raul A. Rivera, M.D. “Often, the first sign of a diabetic foot ulcer that patients notice is drainage on their socks. Redness and swelling may also be indications. If you suspect you have an ulcer, contact your doctor right away."
People with diabetes are far more likely to have a foot or leg amputated than other people. As a diabetic, you should check your feet every day for any sores or redness. Always wear properly fitting shoes, never go barefoot, report foot problems immediately to your VA North Texas Health Care System health care provider, and at least once a year, have them check your feet.
If you have diabetes in your family or suspect you might have symptoms of diabetes, talk with your health care provider at VA North Texas Health Care System about a Blood Glucose Test.
This is a laboratory test that tells exactly how much glucose, or sugar, you have in your blood when it is drawn. Normal blood glucose levels should be between 70 and 110.
Another test used to measure the glucose level in your blood is a Glycosylated Hemoglobin Test (HgbA1C). This test is used to check how much glucose has been in your bloodstream over the past two to three months, and is useful to check how well your diabetes has been controlled with treatment.
Medication such as pills and/or insulin may be needed to lower your blood glucose level, but the most important treatment for diabetes is a proper diet, adjusted to your body needs and activity level. Talk with your VA North Texas Health Care System health care provider or registered dietitian for advice.