Medical Column: Diabetes in Colquitt County – How Sweet Are You?

By: Dr. Catherine Cravey
Family Medicine Resident
Colquitt Regional Medical Center

You might be surprised to learn that according to the CDC, 37.3 million people in the United States have diabetes: that’s approximately 1 in 10 people! Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that of those 37 million people, about 20% don’t even know they have diabetes! Bringing this even closer to home, the CDC has data showing that Colquitt County has a diabetes related death rate that is more than 3 times higher than the rest of Georgia and the United States. Diabetes is a long-lasting health condition that affects how your body processes sugar (also called glucose), which often leads to higher-than-normal sugar in your blood. Common risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being overweight, having a family member with diabetes, being physically inactive, eating too much sugar, and being 45 years of age or older.

So, what should you know to make sure that you are not too sweet? Common symptoms are frequent urination (often at night), increased thirst, losing weight without trying, increased hunger, blurry vision, numbness or tingling in hands or feet, fatigue, very dry skin, sores that heal slowly, or have more infections than usual. People who have diabetes are at higher risk of serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and loss of toes, or legs.

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease by 2 to 4 times and is a leading cause of stroke (not getting oxygen to the brain, can lead to permanent problems with brain function, like thinking, talking, weakness, or inability to move parts of your body, even death). Stroke is 1.5 times more likely in people with diabetes. Also, it is important to note that diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower limb loss, and adult-onset vision loss. Vision loss may result slowly over time due to damage to small blood vessels in the back of the eye. Your primary care provider can closely monitor you for these risk factors and complications. Also, diabetics should have an eye exam yearly by an eye doctor. As a diabetic, it is extremely important to check your feet daily for cuts, scrapes, or skin openings which could lead to infection. Often, diabetes decreases the sensation one feels which puts a person at risk for having damage to skin tissue without being aware. This can quicky put a diabetic at risk for infection, including bone infection.

Losing weight by eating healthy and being more active can cut your risk of getting type 2 diabetes in half. Our county’s disproportionately high rate is unacceptable, is preventable, and everyone with risk factors needs to be screened. Don’t delay! Diabetes can be prevented! Diabetes can also be treated to reduce your risk of heart, brain, kidney, and blood vessel damage, pain problems, and early death! Call your primary care provider today to decrease your risk!