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November 19, 2008 > Why Should You Care About Diabetes?

Why Should You Care About Diabetes?

Approximately 30 percent of the people in Alameda County have diabetes, according to Washington Hospital endocrinologist Aruna Chakravorty, M.D., and the incidence of diabetes is expected to double by the year 2030.

"The rate of diabetes is particularly high among the Asian, Indian and Hispanic populations in the Fremont-Newark area, because those groups have a genetic predisposition to diabetes," she says. "We also are seeing more and more children with Type 2 diabetes because of poor diet and lack of exercise."

Why are these statistics so alarming?

"The complications of diabetes can be deadly serious, and those complications can start very early," Dr. Chakravorty explains. "Even people who have only recently been diagnosed with diabetes can already show signs of complications such as eye disease, kidney disease and nerve damage."

In diabetes, the body cannot properly convert sugar from food into energy, causing sugar levels in the blood and urine to rise. Normally the body changes sugars, starches and other foods into glucose. Then insulin (a hormone produced by an organ called the pancreas) changes glucose into energy. With diabetes, something goes wrong with this process.

In the early stages, diabetes may produce symptoms such as frequent urination, excessive thirst and extreme hunger, especially for sugary foods. More extreme symptoms include unexplained weight loss, extreme fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, tingling and numbness in the hands or feet, frequent bladder or vaginal yeast infections and slow healing of cuts or bruises.

Most complications stem from changes in the blood vessels and nerves that affect various parts of the body, including the eyes, kidneys, heart and limbs. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. because it can cause "retinopathy," or degeneration of the retina at the back of the eye. Diabetes also is the leading cause of kidney failure and non-traumatic leg and foot amputations. People with diabetes face a dramatically higher risk of heart disease, stroke, nerve disease and dental disease resulting in tooth loss.

To help people understand their risks for diabetes and how to manage the disease, Washington Hospital is sponsoring a special seminar - "Why Should You Care About Diabetes?" - as well as a health fair with diabetes screenings on Monday, December 1st in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditoriums located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. The health fair and screenings will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., followed by an expert panel discussion from 10:30 to noon. The panel will include Dr. Chakravorty, as well as Washington Hospital cardiologist Ash Jain, M.D., Washington Hospital ophthalmologist Sarbjit Hundal, M.D. and Washington Hospital podiatrist Warren Johnson, D.P.M.

"This event will mark the culmination of the national month-long observation of American Diabetes Month," says Washington Hospital Diabetes Program Coordinator Vida Reed, R.N., CDE. "We are hoping to reach out to people who have diabetes so they can learn how to better manage the disease, and to people who are at risk for developing diabetes so they can learn how to minimize their risk factors."

People who attend the screenings and panel discussion will be able to submit questions for the panel in writing. "We will cover everything you ever wanted to know about diabetes but were afraid to ask," Dr. Chakravorty notes. "Even shy people who don't like to speak up in front of a group can get answers to their questions, since they can be submitted in writing."

Registration is required to attend the event. For more information, or to register to attend, please call (800) 963-7070.

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