Almost every single one of us knows at least one person who has diabetes or has someone in their family who has it. This condition is prevalent and can be life-threatening if not treated properly. So we went looking for more info and insight about diabetes from a Northwest Arkansas diabetes expert, Melanie Sutton, DNP. She’s an advanced practitioner who specializes in diabetes treatment (and speaking from personal experience after watching her treat a patient in my own family, Melanie is AMAZING at her job.)
Read the Q&A interview below to find out what the differences are in the two types of diabetes, how the disease can impact heart health and what the latest advancements are for treatment.
What causes diabetes?
Type 1 Diabetes is a disease in which the body no longer makes insulin because the body’s own immune system has attacked and destroyed the cells in the pancreas where insulin is made. The cause isn’t entirely clear but it can include both genetic risk factors and environmental factors. People that have Type 1 Diabetes require life-long insulin replacement.
What are the major differences in Type 1 and Type 2?
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. The cause of type 2 diabetes is largely unknown, but genetics and lifestyle clearly play roles. Type 2 diabetes has been linked to obesity, genetic risk factors, and inactivity. The risk of having type 2 diabetes increases as a person gets older. There are racial and ethnic groups that are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. These groups include American Indians, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
What are the first red flags/symptoms seen in children who develop diabetes?
The signs and symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes in children usually develop quickly and over a period of weeks. Commons signs and symptoms include extreme thirst, extreme hunger, frequent urination, weight loss, fatigue, irritability or unusual behavior, and sometimes blurry vision.
Are the symptoms for women different than symptoms seen in men? How?
It’s important to keep in mind that many people with diabetes have no symptoms prior to diagnosis. For most however, the symptoms for men and women are largely the same and include: fatigue, unexplainable weight loss or weight gain, frequent thirst, increased appetite, nausea, frequent urination, irritability or mood changes, slow healing wounds, skin changes, and blurred vision. Symptoms that are unique to women include increase in urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections or thrush and sexual dysfunction.
What are the most common myths about the disease? What do you wish more people knew about diabetes?
One of the myths about diabetes is that it is caused by “eating too much sugar”, and while a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates can lead to unhealthy weight gain and increased risk for diabetes, it is not the cause.
What we wish that more people knew and understood about diabetes is that it is a chronic and progressive disease. With early diagnosis and aggressive lifestyle changes and treatment it can be controlled and complications can be minimized or prevented altogether.
One of the most important facts to know about diabetes is the increased risk for heart disease in those with diabetes. The risk for heart disease in men with diabetes is 2-3x higher than in men without diabetes. Alarmingly, the risk for heart disease in women with diabetes is 6 times higher than in women without diabetes. The other risk factors associated with diabetes include high cholesterol, nerve damage, kidney disease and damage to the retinas in the eyes.
What is the most challenging part of your job? What part do you enjoy the most?
The most challenging part of treating patients with diabetes is addressing the need to make permanent life-style changes and the importance of maintaining tight glucose control. This isn’t a disease that you get to put away for the weekend and forget. It requires constant attention and planning and for most patients that can be exhausting. The other greatest challenge is helping patients manage the cost and resources required to treat diabetes. Cost of medication and testing supplies can be overwhelming, and trying to balance cost while maintaining tight control can be difficult.
What I personally enjoy most about treating patients with diabetes is watching them get better. This disease requires a tremendous amount of education and effort from patients and to see the lifestyle changes and medications work together to restore good health is very rewarding.
What are the latest advancements in the treatment of the disease?
The latest advancements in the treatment of diabetes are numerous. There are a number of new oral medications being used and others currently being studied to address the different mechanisms of this disease and make treatment easier for patients on a day to day basis. For those that require insulin there are newer delivery options and more choices for insulin than have ever been available.
Many of the newest generation of insulin pumps are now equipped with glucose sensors and provide minute-to-minute feedback about glucose trends. Glucose monitoring has always been a challenge and we now have meters that can detect patterns in the glucose levels and provide suggestions for insulin dosing as well as continuous glucose monitors that can be worn for days at a time and provide the patient with more than 250 glucose readings per day!
Our thanks to Melanie Sutton, DNP for answering our questions about diabetes. To schedule an appointment with Melanie or for more information about diabetes treatment, call Mercy’s Endocrinology Clinic at 479-338-4600. The Mercy Endocrinology Clinic is located at 3333 Pinnacle Hills Parkway, Suite 300B, in Rogers. Click here for more info.