Medically Reviewed by Beth Hendrickson, RN
According to the National Diabetes Association, there are approximately 15.7 million people in the United States with diabetes. Of those, an estimated 10.3 million have received an actual diagnosis. Unfortunately, the remaining 5.4 million people are not even aware that they have this serious disease. That's a scary thought.
Every day, about 2,200 people in this country are diagnosed with diabetes, which means that about 798,000 will be diagnosed in the coming year. Thousands more will develop the disease and not even know it.
Many of us believe that diabetes, because it is manageable, is not life threatening or even very serious. On the contrary, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death overall in the United States, and the sixth leading cause of death among other diseases. Diabetes is a chronic disease, for which there is no known cure.
If controlled properly, most people with diabetes can live relatively complication-free, but if left uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to major health problems like blindness, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, nerve disease, and even amputations.
I've already discussed how many people in this country have diabetes and don't even know it, but even those who are aware just haven't been properly educated about what the disease is, what causes it, what it can do, and why they need to take certain steps to avoid disaster.
If you have diabetes, you know that it is imperative that you keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible, but do you really know why? Your doctor can advise you about the kind of measures to take in your lifestyle to keep your disease under control, but do you know how all of this works and what can happen if you don't follow your doctor's suggestions? If you have diabetes (even if you've had it for a long time) your mind is most certainly full of questions that you just don't know the answers to.
Just thinking about all the people who have diabetes and don't know it is overwhelming. But, when I consider all of those who are aware that they have it, and just don't know enough about it to prevent complications, I really get scared. The sheer number of people who are at risk for severe health problems, or even death due to a manageable disease is quite devastating.
Just like any other disease, condition, or health issue, education is the key. Unfortunately, most doctors just don't have the time to sit down with you and explain your disease, its causes, and its real definition in detail. So, if patients want to learn about their disease, understand it, and be able to keep it in check, the burden of that learning lies squarely on their shoulders.
As a diabetes educator and mother of a son who was diagnosed with diabetes at age four, I know how important it is for you to know everything you possibly can about your diabetes, and how to control it. If you've been diagnosed, educate yourself. If you haven't, study the disease so you know what to look for; you could be one of those 5.4 million unsuspecting people.
Sharon Truax is a Certified Diabetes Educator.