Diabetes is a disease impacting millions

Published 11:22pm Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Millions of Americans facing the life-altering disease diabetes deal with burdens that many may overlook.

According to a 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 25.8 million children and adults have diabetes. Diabetes is a “group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin,” according to the American Diabetes Association. Type two diabetes can be prevented with the proper healthy lifestyle choice, but type one diabetes cannot, according to the organization.

“There is a certain length of time when all you are trying to do is survive and learn as much as you can about it,” diabetes advocate Andrew Deutscher said when discussing the moment he learned his son, who was one-year old at the time, had type one diabetes. “You take home your child, and it’s like a life-changing event in this chronic condition.”

Eventually Duetscher perceived his son’s diagnosis as a motivation to become an advocate of diabetes.

He serves multiple committees for JDRF Georgia, which is a global organization focused on type one diabetes research. He has even written books that showcase the lifestyle changes type one diabetes through the personal stories of those affected.

“It’s a constant balancing and managing of his blood sugar level, because his body doesn’t do that for him,” Duetscher said in reference to his son. “All the things someone without type one would take for granted, like the hormone insulin actively doing all of this stuff for you, is manual.”

Cahaba Center for Mental Health and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System have multiple programs designed to aid people in the Dallas County area directly or indirectly affected by diabetes.

Collectively they offer diabetes support group meetings, educational and preventive classes, health fairs and more diabetes-related programs.

“We give people an ear, so they can talk about the issues that they have been facing with diabetes,” Dallas County Extension Office Coordinator Callie Nelson said in reference to the diabetes support group. “They are able to share their successes as well as their struggles.”

Nelson, who has a husband diagnosed with diabetes, said that leading the group has taught her some new information about the effects of diabetes.

She learned how emotional and stressful living with diabetes is after speaking with a woman that perceived the diagnosis as her life coming to an end.

“She didn’t feel as though she was capable or equipped to know how to manage her eating habits and everything, so that she could eat healthy,” Nelson said. “She thought it was almost like a life sentence.”

The 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet states that the 7 million of the 25.8 million people with diabetes are undiagnosed.

“One thing that people really need to do is make sure you’re tested, so that you can start doing what you need to do to control it,” Nelson said. “Left uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to death.”

Untreated diabetes can cause disabling and life-threatening complications, such as cardiovascular disease, kidney damage and foot damage, according to American Diabetes Association.

Anyone interested in learning more about any of the diabetes-related programs offered at the Dallas County, should contact TES paraprofessional Dorothy Chatmon or Nelson at 875-3200.

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