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Diabetes: Beware this 'Silent Disease'
Be on the lookout for signs and symptoms
“Characterized by high levels of sugar in the blood, diabetes is a dangerous and destructive disease,” says Dennis Ferrer, MD, a board-certified physician specializing in Endocrinology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.
“Diabetes starts as a silent disease, advancing painlessly, almost imperceptibly,” says Dr. Ferrer, who sees 25 to 30 diabetic patients per week. “It mainly attacks the small blood vessels, damaging the kidneys, eyes, and nerves.” It can also affect larger blood vessels.
“Patients often don’t realize that coronary artery disease is associated with high levels of blood sugar,” Dr. Ferrer says. “Diabetes and its associated conditions can cause coronary arteries to become inflamed, narrowed, or obstructed, thus setting the stage for a heart attack or stroke.”
Type 1 diabetes most often is diagnosed in childhood and young adulthood. It’s characterized by the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin. Although not curable, it can be managed with insulin injections and diet.
During Type 2 diabetes, typically occurring at a more mature age, the pancreas is initially able to produce insulin, but the body’s cells don’t use the glucose properly, causing metabolic problems, including blackouts. Type 2 diabetes is usually preventable. Obesity, for example, increases the risk. But heredity may also be a contributing factor.
Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include chronic fatigue, excessive thirst, and frequent, sleep-interrupting incidents of nighttime urination.
“The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is sometimes managed through lifestyle changes without medication,” Dr. Ferrer adds. “If you feel you’re at risk, get examined by a qualified physician. And do it soon.”
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