Living and thriving with diabetes

[4 MIN READ]  

In this article: 

  • November is National Diabetes Month, so we’re looking at the ins and outs of diabetes. 

  • Three different types of diabetes are Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. 

  • Many Providence locations offer extensive diabetes education and treatment programs to show patients how they can live well with diabetes. 

The United States is currently facing a growing diabetes epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 37.3 million American adults have diabetes; however, one in five of those people don’t even know it. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and the No. 1 cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputations and adult blindness. 

November is National Diabetes Month, so let’s take a look at the disease itself, how you can prevent it and what you can do to manage it. 

The difference between Type 1 and Type 2 

In both types of diabetes, a person’s blood sugar levels can become too high because the body doesn’t produce insulin or use it properly. However, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have very different causes and potential complications. 

Type 1 diabetes 

Formerly called “juvenile diabetes,” Type 1 is a genetic disorder in which the pancreas makes little or no insulin. Insulin helps blood sugar enter the body’s cells to be used as energy. Without insulin, blood sugar builds up in the bloodstream, causing complications such as: 

  • Heart disease 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Foot damage 
  • Eye problems 
  • Kidney damage 
  • Pregnancy complications   

People with Type 1 diabetes must keep careful track of their blood sugar levels — otherwise, they run the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). This disease is often diagnosed in childhood, which is why it used to be called juvenile diabetes. There is no cure, but you can reduce complications if you manage it well. 

Type 2 diabetes 

Unlike Type 1 diabetes, which often appears in childhood, Type 2 diabetes is most likely to be diagnosed in middle-aged or older adults. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have this type, in which your pancreas makes some insulin, but your cells don’t respond to it as they should. 

Type 2 diabetes is typically caused by one or more of the following: 

  • Weight: Obesity can lead to insulin resistance. 
  • Physical inactivity: People who do not exercise are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. 
  • Genes: The disease often runs in families, and occurs most often in the following ethnic groups: 
    • African Americans  
    • Alaska Natives  
    • American Indians 
    • Asian Americans  
    • Hispanics/Latinos 
    • Native Hawaiians 
    • Pacific Islanders 
  • Removal of the pancreas – This is less common than the other causes, but when a damaged pancreas is removed, diabetes will occur. 

It’s possible to reverse Type 2 diabetes with the right diet and frequent physical activity. 

Diabetes symptoms 

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes share similar symptoms, including: 

  • Extreme thirst 
  • Urinating a lot, especially at night 
  • Having blurry vision 
  • Lose weight without trying 
  • Feeling very tired 
  • Having sores that heal slowly, or more infections than usual 

People with Type 1 diabetes may also have nausea, vomiting and stomach pains, while those with Type 2 could go for years without noticing any symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to see your doctor for regular check-ups, which include cholesterol and blood sugar checks. 

Gestational diabetes 

Every year, between 2-10% of women in the U.S. who are pregnant develop gestational diabetes. While all pregnant women experience some insulin resistance late in their pregnancy, those who have gestational diabetes have cells that use insulin much less effectively. This is typically because of the effects of the weight they gained during pregnancy. 

Doctors usually check for gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. If you have it, they will work with you to create a healthy eating and exercise plan, and they will monitor your baby closely for the rest of the pregnancy. 

Diabetes management at Providence 

At Providence, our doctors, nurses, and dietitians want to help you manage this chronic condition and live a healthy life. We offer diabetes management programs with topics such as: 

  • Medication management  
  • Blood glucose monitoring instruction  
  • Insulin administration  
  • Lifestyle adjustments 
  • Healthy coping with diabetic stress  
  • Diabetes care and management for pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy  
  • Healthy eating with nutrition guidance, comprehensive meal planning and weight management 
  • Preventive education for patients with pre-diabetes in order to prevent or delay diabetes 
  • Resources for community outreach programs 

Learn more about diabetes care at Providence

Find a doctor 

If you’re looking for a primary care provider or endocrinologist, you can search for one who’s right for you in our provider directory

Download the Providence App 

We’re with you, wherever you are. Make the Providence app your personalized connection to your health. Schedule appointments, conduct virtual visits, message your doctor, view your health records and more. Learn more and download the app

Related resources 

Hear Me Now podcast: Life-saving therapies beyond diabetes

Diabetes prevention 

Providence diabetes program earns national recognition 

Have you seen your doctor for a well check? 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions. 

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