Diabetes: the silent killer

It is a disease that has no cure, and there are 15.7 million people in the United States who have it. Each day approximately 2,200 people are diagnosed with this disease. The disease is diabetes and it is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and the physicians of Texas Medical Association want you to be aware of the warning signs. There are two major types of diabetes: Type I occurs when the body does not produce insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. Type II, referred to as non-insulin dependent, occurs when the body does not make enough, or properly use, insulin. Type II diabetes is the most common form of the disease, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes cases. The cause of diabetes is unknown, although obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles. As the U.S. population becomes increasingly overweight, researchers expect Type II diabetes to appear more frequently in younger children. Type II diabetes commonly occurs in children who are: ‘ Overweight: as many as 80 percent may be overweight at the time of diagnosis; ‘ Older than 10 years of age and are in middle to late puberty, although cases of Type II diabetes in children as young as four years old have been documented; ‘ Have a family history of Type II diabetes; ‘ Are a member of a certain racial/ethnic group, specifically African Americans, Hispanics or Native Americans. Obesity, a contributing factor to diabetes, is on the rise in the United States and is blamed for the high number of children with diabetes. In the United States about 14 percent of children ages 6 to 11 and 12 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 are overweight. Obesity is not only caused by poor eating habits, but also by the sedate lifestyle that children are leading. Too often, they entertain themselves in front of a television or computer instead of engaging in some form of physical activity. People with Type II diabetes often have no symptoms at the onset of the disease although the following symptoms have been attributed to people with diabetes: increased thirst and hunger, increased urination, weight loss in spite of increased appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, frequent infections, especially bladder, vaginal and skin, blurred vision, breath odor, impotence in men, cessation of menses in women, bleeding gums, ear noise or buzzing, diarrhea, depression, confusion or irritability, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling and numbness in the hands or feet. School nurses are helping to identify early warning signs of diabetes. According to Dr. Stanley Fisch, a Harlingen pediatrician, “The Texas Department of Health has a program called ANTES which allows school nurses to look for early signs of diabetes much like they test school children’s spines for scoliosis.” By identifying early warning signs, more children are getting early treatment for a dangerous disease before it gets out of hand. Parents need to stress good eating habits to their children. It is never too early to set them on the course of eating nutritious foods low in sugar, fat and high in fiber. Instead of watching TV or playing on the computer, parents should also encourage their children to be physically active and play outside. Texas Medical Association is a professional organization of more than 36,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 118 component county medical societies around the state. The Association represents 85 percent of the doctors of medicine licensed and residing in Texas. TMA’s key objective is to improve the health of all Texans.

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