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Diabetes Management: The key to a full, active life

A letter from Anita Chaudhuri, M.D.

Western Niagara County is in the throes of a diabetes epidemic.

According to the New York State Department of Health, our area’s rate of hospital admissions for diabetes is 24 percent above what it should be based on the age and ethnic makeup of our population.  Among African Americans, the admission rate is a whopping 475 percent above what should be expected.

My experience seeing patients at the Diabetes & Endocrinology Center at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center tells me the incidence of diabetes is on the increase and we probably don’t know how bad it really is.  Although Health Department statistics indicate more than a million New Yorkers have been diagnosed with diabetes, an estimated 450,000 people have it and don't even know it because their symptoms are overlooked or misunderstood.

A diagnosis of diabetes indicates that your body isn't producing or properly using insulin, a hormone that converts sugar, starches and other food into the energy you need for daily living. Without insulin, glucose remains in the blood stream where it can’t be used for energy and, over time, can cause serious health problems.  Delays in recognizing, diagnosing and treating this disease can steal years from your life. 

The fastest growing chronic disease in the United States, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney disease and amputation, and it contributes greatly to two other conditions that are epidemic in Western New York: heart disease and stroke. 

Diabetes often goes undiagnosed because so many of its symptoms seem harmless. They can include frequent urination, increased thirst, hunger, unusual weight loss and extreme fatigue and irritability.  People with Type 2 diabetes, also sometimes referred to as adult onset diabetes, may also experience frequent infections, blurred vision, cuts or bruises that are slow to heal, a tingling or numbness in the hands or feet and recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections.

If you have one or more of these symptoms, the American Diabetes Association recommends you see a doctor right away. 

Don’t be afraid to find out if you have diabetes.  Delayed diagnosis can lead to serious complications and people with diabetes can live full and active lives.  The key to living life to its fullest is proper management and treatment of the diabetes.  The Diabetes & Endocrinology Center of Niagara offers “Living with Diabetes,” a self-management course that meets the guidelines of the American Diabetes Association.   I highly recommend it.

November is American Diabetes Month.  If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, please do the right thing for yourself and those who love you: see a doctor and get tested for diabetes.  It could be the first step to a longer, healthier life.

Anita Chaudhuri, M.D., is medical director of the Diabetes & Endocrinology Center of Niagara at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. She is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism.

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