The Women's Health Resource Center
Our bodies convert much of the food we eat into sugar, which we need for energy. Insulin, made in the pancreas, helps the sugar leave the bloodstream and move into the body's cells, where it is used as fuel. When an individual has diabetes, the pancreas can't make enough insulin, or the body can't use insulin efficiently. Sugar stays in the blood, overflows into the urine and passes out of the body unused. If this condition persists, the excess blood sugar can damage virtually every organ in the body.
In the Unites States, approximately 8% of women have diabetes and is the sixth leading cause of death. Women with diabetes can lead healthy, normal lives by following an individualized treatment plan that addresses diet, exercise, home blood glucose monitoring and proper medication requiring knowledge, attention and daily care. Unfortunately, only two-thirds of individuals with diabetes have been diagnosed, leaving approximately two million women unaware of their medical condition. Without treatment, individuals are at high risk for medical complications including heart and kidney disease, stroke, vision loss, nerve damage and high-risk pregnancy.
There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1, formerly known as insulin-dependent or juvenile-onset diabetes, representing 5% to 10% of all diagnosed cases. Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as non-insulin or adult-onset diabetes, represents 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases. Type 2 diabetes is more likely to occur in people who are over age 40, overweight, physically inactive, have high blood pressure, have a family history of diabetes, had gestational diabetes or a baby with a high birth weight. Some ethnic groups are at higher risk including African-American, Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander. Symptoms of diabetes may be hard to notice and include fatigue, repeated or hard-to-heal infections, increased hunger and thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, sexual dysfunction, dry itchy skin and numbness or tingling in the extremities.
Gestational diabetes develops in 2% to 5% of all pregnancies, usually resulting in larger babies, over 9 pounds, and thus an increased incidence of cesarean delivery. Gestational diabetes typically disappears when the pregnancy is over; however, women should be tested yearly thereafter as they are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Research shows that individuals who are able to maintain good blood glucose levels have a lower risk of suffering complications associated with diabetes. For more information contact the California Pacific Center for Diabetes Services at 415-750-6506, Women's Health Resource Center at (415) 600-0500, the Community Health Resource Center at (415) 923-3155 or the Institute for Health and Healing at (415) 600-3660.
What you can do…
- Exercise regularly and maintain a reasonable weight.
- Get to know your family medical history.
- If you are diagnosed with diabetes, join a support group and learn about ways to manage your diabetes.