PITTSBURG — Diabetes is among the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In order to have a healthy heart, eyes, kidneys and lower limbs, people who have prediabetes or diabetes should become as educated on the disease as possible, according to Travis Searles Ascension Via Christi Patient Education Specialist.
That is why Ascension Via Christi Diabetes education department and outpatient wound care clinic are partnering together to help increase awareness about diabetes and the different services available to help manage their diabetes, Searles said.
The hospital is going to sponsor a diabetes awareness fair from noon to 4 p.m. on Nov. 12 in the lobby area of the main entrance of the hospital.
There will be booths set up with reference materials on diabetes which include monitoring blood sugar, exercise programs, nutrition, wound care and more. The Outpatient Wound Care Clinic will be doing free diabetic foot exams and give out information on wound healing. There will also be a raffle giveaway basket full of diabetic supplies.
They will also provide information on their Diabetes Self Management Education Class and other classes which promote healthier lifestyles, such as smoking cessation class and gestational diabetes class. The Diabetes Self Management Education class covers glucose monitoring, risk factors, physical therapy and exercise, and medication.
The classes require a referral from a doctor and are covered by most insurances and medicaid, Searles said.
What is diabetes?
Most people know someone who has diabetes, Searles said.
In someone who has type 1 diabetes their pancreas does not create any insulin, a hormone that enables blood sugar to enter the cells in your body where it can be used for energy, according to the CDC. Not having enough insulin results in ketoacidosis, a condition which occurs when there isn’t enough insulin in your body. Type 1 is caused by an autoimmune reaction and is usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults, but it can develop at any age, the CDC said.
Type 2 could be caused by multiple factors which include the pancreas not making enough insulin, Searles said.
“Carbohydrates is fuel to cells, and so carbohydrates turn to glucose and glucose goes into your cells and creates energy,” he said. “Your cells need energy to do what they are supposed to do.”
Searles used the example of doors which have handicap button releases to explain how it works.
“I always explain that glucose cannot just go into a cell and walk in — the door is locked … that’s where insulin comes in. Insulin is a hormone that pushes that doors button so glucose can go in.
“If you don’t have insulin, glucose cannot go in and gets back into the bloodstream and so you have a bunch of glucose in your bloodstream.”
The brain notices there’s not enough sugar so it sends signals for the liver to try to compensate which ultimately causes too much sugar. Later on the kidneys, which are working to regulate glucose, “say they are tired of doing this and that’s when the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes come in, which is urinating a lot and thirst,” Searles explained.
Just like working out at the gym every day, “they [organs] are going to wear out,” Searles said.
Education and Support
Diabetes encompasses a whole lot of topics and is not a disease where people can just go to the doctor and receive a pill and be cured, Searles said.
“If you want to manage your diabetes correctly, if you want to keep your heart healthy, your eyes healthy, your feet healthy, your kidneys healthy, then you need to adapt a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
According to Searles, it’s all about a healthy lifestyle that is suited to each individual — from nutrition to exercise.
“50 grams of carbs per meal is a good portion to eat [for one person], but the thing about that is your husband or family members who are with you, it’s actually a good healthy meal for all of them,” he said. “With slight lifestyle modifications you can keep your diabetes from affecting your eyesight, your kidneys, your feet and your lower limbs. That’s why education is so important.”
Education also helps clear up any misconceptions, such as not being able to eat favorite foods anymore.
“I’ll go and talk to somebody who is newly diagnosed and one of the misconceptions is ‘now I can never eat sugar again and I could never eat this and never eat that’ and that’s where the dietitian comes in handy,” Searles said. “It’s actually about portion control and controlling carbs, he said. Each person’s nutrition is individually based, he added.
It’s also important for people who are diabetic to learn about wound care.
“Amputations are high prevalence in diabetic foot ulcers, that is why it is so important for you to do a foot inspection everyday because of neuropathy,” Searles said. “Some people with diabetes can’t feel their feet so they don’t know that there was an injury there.
“There’s stories of people taking their boot off after work and their sock just be full of blood and there’s a nail sticking through their boot.
“The problem with wound healing in that aspect is if you have a cut or sore on your arm and you just keep beating on something it’s not going to heal, if you don’t know it’s there you can’t avoid trauma to that.”
Searles said people with these type of wounds should not wait to see a doctor and should visit a wound care clinic, a doctor or a podiatrist, “and start getting it treated quickly because the longer you wait to start treatment the closer you are to becoming an amputee,” he said.
Being educated on expenses and patient assistance programs can also increase the probability that people will take a trip to the doctor if they need wound care or have high/low blood sugar, Searles said.
“There is support and there is help, it makes a huge difference in their daily lifestyle,” he said.