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Managing Diabetes 

Almost 21 million people in the United States have Diabetes. Unfortunately, more than six million of those people don't know it.

With this in mind, East Jefferson General Hospital (EJGH) invites everyone to a Managing Diabetes in Today's World seminar from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, March 10 at the EJGH Conference Center. The program is free, but you need to register.

Experts will discuss topics such as eye disease, kidney disease, foot care and stress and diet management.

Diagnosing diabetes is sometimes difficult because its symptoms seem harmless. Many individuals experience increased fatigue, irritability, unusual weight loss or extreme hunger and thirst and think those symptoms are due to the normal stresses of life. They don't feel it is necessary to see a doctor, believing the symptoms will go away. Early detection, however, can make a big difference in their quality of life and means they can avoid potentially serious complications.

"Diabetes is far from the death sentence people view it as," says Rose Wade, RNC, CDE, Program Coordinator of the East Jefferson Diabetes Management Center. "It can be devastating if you don't take care of it. If you have a good attitude, knowing you need to take care of it, you will be just fine. It really isn't doom and gloom."

Getting properly diagnosed, understanding the disease itself and learning how to manage it are the first steps to a normal life. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is the hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other foods into energy for daily life. The body and brain depend on this insulin and the produced sugars to function properly.

The imbalance of sugars contributes to more serious and life-threatening complications. Diabetics are two to four times more likely to suffer from heart disease or a stroke. Other complications include high blood pressure, blindness, kidney damage and foot problems that can result in amputations. These complications often lead the patient to the physician, and ultimately to the diagnosis of diabetes.

"Diabetes is a total-body disease," says Wade, a diabetic herself. "If it is not controlled, it will damage many parts of your body."

The most common forms of diabetes are:

• Type I affects children and young adults. The pancreas does not make insulin, and insuline must be injected.

• Type II is primarily found in adults and is the most common form of diabetes. The pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body tries to reject the insulin that is made. In Type II, weight management plays a major role. It can be controlled through diet, although medication or insulin may be required.

• Gestational diabetes affects women who are pregnant, but usually goes away after the baby is delivered. Diagnosed around the sixth month, immediate steps are taken to ensure the health of the mother and baby. Diet is monitored, and depending on the disease's severity, insulin may be administered. Gestational diabetes puts women at higher risk for Type II diabetes later in life.

Diabetes treatments have changed over the years, and new medications have significantly improved the way the disease is managed. Keys to managing it involve properly monitoring your diet and blood sugar levels, exercising and, if necessary, taking medication or insulin.

Improved devices on the market, including insulin pumps and pens, greatly help the management process. Both devices are more accurate and are easier to use than syringes. The pump has been especially useful for children because of its ease of operation.

Wade encourages anyone with diabetes to join a support group to cope with mental-health issues associated with this -- or any -- life-changing condition. Depression is common among those with diabetes, and it is important to recognize how it can negatively affect the ability for a patient to focus on disease management.

EJGH offers a free support group and other educational programs through the Diabetes Management Center. The goal of the support group and programs is to give those with diabetes a place to be with others and to share similar experiences, concerns and tips.

"The support group in particular gives a forum for us to talk about anything," says Wade. "Although I go for my job, I look forward to going because it helps me to know I am not alone."

For information on the Diabetes Management Center and support groups or to register for the Successfully Managing Diabetes in Today's World seminar, call HealthFinder at 456-5000.

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