Why diabetes treatment matters

The cells throughout your body, including those of your brain as well as your muscles, need fuel to function properly. That fuel is a type of sugar called glucose. Your intestines extract glucose from what you eat and drink, and pass it into your bloodstream. A hormone called insulin, produced in the pancreas, is required to enable glucose to transfer into cells to produce energy.

People with diabetes have too much glucose in their blood, either because their body’s cells don’t react properly to insulin, or because their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. No cure exists for diabetes, but we can help you keep it under control.

Health risks of diabetes

If left untreated, diabetes over time can be damaging and potentially life-threatening. It can increase your risk for:

  • Kidney disease, potentially leading to the need for dialysis
  • Cardiovascular problems — heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
  • Retinopathy, caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina, at the back of the eye, posing a risk of vision problems or even blindness
  • Nerve damage
  • Gum disease
  • Foot problems that can lead to amputation if severe

Prediabetes: An early warning sign

Someone whose blood sugar level is between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) — higher than normal but not yet in the range for diabetes — is considered to have prediabetes. That’s a signal that changes are needed to avoid the development of Type 2 diabetes.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that more than 1 in 3 Americans has prediabetes, but most of them don’t know they have it. Their blood glucose level may have risen because their body’s cells are becoming less sensitive to insulin. That causes the pancreas to produce more insulin, but eventually, the pancreas becomes unable to make enough insulin to transfer sugar from the blood to the body’s cells. The continually rising blood sugar eventually can evolve into Type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle and dietary changes can help a person with prediabetes from developing Type 2 diabetes. Our UC Davis Health endocrinologists, specially trained nurses, and dietitians can design a program for you that includes meal planning, physical activity, stress management and perhaps medication to prevent worsening illness. The factors that put a person at risk for prediabetes are the same as those that lead to Type 2 diabetes. You’ll learn much more in the health education classes that we offer to help put you in charge and in control of your own health.

How prediabetes and diabetes are diagnosed

A simple blood test measuring glucose level is used to determine if someone has prediabetes or diabetes. A normal blood glucose level between meals is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Doctors have a name for significantly higher blood glucose levels: hyperglycemia. A blood glucose level of 126 mg/dl or higher after fasting for 12 hours or greater than 200 mg/dl two hours after eating, a characteristic of diabetes, is cause for concern and action.

Symptoms of diabetes

  • Continual thirst, despite drinking lots of liquids
  • Frequent urination, especially during the night
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Hunger, despite eating normally
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Slow healing of cuts and sores

Other conditions we treat