Diabetic risk can be lowered with diligence, healthy lifestyle

Diabetes is defined most simply as having elevated blood glucose, or sugar, levels. While there are distinct differences between type 1 and type 2 forms, both are caused by insufficient levels of insulin, the hormone needed to produce and regulate blood sugar.

Basic symptoms for both types include fatigue, unexplained weight loss, increased thirst and urination, blurry vision, and increased appetite. One of the most prevalent complications is eye disease such as glaucoma, cataracts, and, most severely, blindness.

Diabetic eye disease develops as the result of having prolonged elevated blood sugar. Dr. Ildiko Lingvay, a diabetes expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says recent studies show that about 28 percent of affected patients develop eye disease.

“Unfortunately, there are no obvious symptoms so it’s crucial that patients get an annual eye exam,” says Dr. Lingvay. “The higher the blood sugar is above normal levels, the higher the patient’s risk of developing eye disease.”

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body destroys the cells that produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes, often developed as a result of obesity, the body cannot meet the high demand of insulin it needs. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 25.8 million people in the U.S. have some form of diabetes which, if left untreated, can lead to complications such as nerve damage, kidney damage, and skin conditions. 

Dr. Lingvay suggests that prevention is the most effective diabetes treatment. People with a family history of type 1 diabetes can undergo testing for antibodies to find out their risk of developing the disease. Identified at-risk patients can opt to participate in a diabetes prevention study, she says. Proactive measures for type 2 diabetes are much more straightforward.

“Exercise, eat a healthy diet, and maintain a healthy body weight. It sounds simple, but is very difficult for many people,” Dr. Lingvay says.

Visit www.utsouthwestern.org/endocrinology to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in endocrinology, including diabetes. For information on UT Southwestern’s diabetes research studies visit www.utsouthwestern.edu/research.

November is American Diabetes Month, and Diabetic Eye Disease Month

Media Contact: remekca.owens@utsouthwestern.edu" title="Email Remekca Owens