There exists a myth that if a child eats too much candy his teeth will rot and he’ll get diabetes. The teeth may suffer, but consuming copious amounts of sugar alone will not lead to diabetes.
“It’s not so much the candy itself, but the development of poor eating habits that follow the person to adulthood,” said Maj. Gayle McDermott, Internal Medicine physician. “The poor eating habits can lead to obesity, which really sets you up for Type II diabetes.
Diabetes comes in two types – Type I and II. Type I is found predominately in children and is the result of pancreatic failure. In adults, the overwhelming majority of cases are Type II diabetes. They have insulin resistance, which means that their bodies don’t use insulin properly. In terms of health care dollars, this type really strains resources, said Major McDermott.
The most important thing people need to be aware of is to get their fasting blood sugar levels checked regularly. The fasting level is the level of blood sugar present after not eating for 12 to 14 hours.
“If you have been told in the past that your sugar level is a little high, you should do something about it now,” she said. “Don’t wait. If identified early, in the pre-diabetes period, it is preventable. The problem is that people don’t usually think about diabetes until a doctor tells them that they have it. The other misconception is that there is nothing the patient can do to modify the course of the disease.”
As is the case with many diseases, early detection is the key to combat the disease.
“If diabetes is caught early enough, a person can make changes in diet and exercise to control sugar levels,” said Major McDermott. “These changes can control the levels for years, before any medication is needed.”
On the flip side, if the disease is left to run rampant, heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and the potential loss of limbs can occur.
Type II symptoms include: overwhelming thirst that does not go away, frequent and/or uncontrollable urination, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing infections and impotence in men. The following people are at risk of getting this type of diabetes: people 55 or older, African-American or Latino, anyone with a close relative who has diabetes, people with high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol and overweight people who do not exercise.
Children who have Type I Diabetes have an overwhelming thirst that does not go away, frequent and uncontrollable urination, weight loss or weight gain, nausea and fatigue.
Seventeen million Americans have diabetes and a third of diabetics don’t know they have the disease.
“If you are in one of the high-risk groups, take the time and have your blood sugar level checked annually,” said Major McDermott.