About one out of every 11 Americans has diabetes. Arkansas physicians continue to see increasing numbers of patients with diabetes – both newly diagnosed and those that continue to struggle to manage this chronic illness. Doctors and nurses have a limited amount of time to explain the details of diabetic care and treatment to their patients. The daily responsibility of successfully managing this chronic condition falls to patients and their caregivers. This can be an overwhelming task without the knowledge and skills needed to manage this complex chronic illness.

Community resources are important in helping support these individuals and their families as they try to manage diabetes. Every community should have access to free diabetes self-management education (DSME).

Diabetes workshops may be available in your town through a program called “Health for Life – Everyone with Diabetes Counts,” which is administered by the TMF Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) of which AFMC is a subcontractor. The workshops use an evidence-based curriculum called the Diabetes Education and Empowerment Program (DEEP).

Workshop participants include persons newly diagnosed with either prediabetes or diabetes. Caregivers, family members or friends may join the groups. The workshops are held in different settings including churches, libraries, community centers and senior citizen centers. The workshops are offered in both English and Spanish. They meet every week for about two hours in a relaxed social setting. The program is informal and interactive. The participants learn from one another, often forming lasting friendships and support groups.

Local community volunteers teach and lead the workshops. The volunteers are not required to be healthcare professionals themselves, but they are trained by licensed healthcare professionals. After the training is completed, the professional trainers continue to provide both resources and support to the peer educators.

Training to become a diabetes peer educator is free and is provided over a two-and-a-half-day period. The volunteers are certified as peer educators using the “train-the-trainer” model funded by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

For more information on how to connect to educational diabetes workshops in your area, or to learn more about the train-the-trainer program, visit the TMF website www.tmfqin.org  or contact Mary Gupton at AFMC Mgupton@afmc.org

Diabetes symptoms

When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

If you have one or more of the following symptoms, it may indicate you have prediabetes or diabetes. Contact your healthcare professional as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Please note that some people have diabetes or prediabetes but have none of these symptoms. And, most people do not have symptoms early in the disease.

Symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Feeling very tired much of the time
  • Very dry skin
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • More infections than usual

Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains may accompany some of these symptoms in the abrupt onset of insulin-dependent diabetes, now called type 1 diabetes.

Diagnosis is easy

The risk for diabetes increases with age and experts recommend routine screening for diabetes for persons over 45 years of age. Screening should also be considered in any adult who is overweight or obese and has at least one of these additional risk factors:

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Depression
  • Sleep apnea or chronic sleep deprivation
  • Member of a high-risk population: African-American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American or Pacific Islander

Testing for diabetes is by fasting glucose testing or testing your A1C level. Both tests are a simple blood draw, which is analyzed by a laboratory. Point-of-care A1C tests and finger-stick blood glucose testing should not be used for diagnosis. The A1C test may not be accurate in people with anemia, kidney failure or liver disease.

Ms. Nycum is an outreach specialist RN with AFMC’s outreach services – quality department.