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Diabetes Facts and Related Costs

Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body uses food for energy. It affects the body's use of carbohydrates (sugars and starches) the most. When a person has diabetes, the body cannot absorb carbohydrates properly and use them for energy.

There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational. All three kinds cause the body to have abnormally high levels of dissolved sugar (glucose) in the blood.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is not making any insulin. Since insulin is needed to help the body absorb carbohydrates properly, insulin injections (shots) are needed. Type 1 diabetes usually begins before 20 years of age.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is still making some insulin, but it has trouble using the insulin properly or is not making enough insulin. It can be treated with diet and exercise, or pills, or insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes usually begins during the adult years. At least 90% of the people with diabetes have this type.

Gestational diabetes occurs when a woman develops high blood sugar during pregnancy. It affects both her and her developing child.

When the body is not able to absorb and use carbohydrates properly, dissolved sugar (glucose) builds up in the bloodstream. When the blood sugar level builds up and stay high for a long time, complications often occur. Many necessary parts of the body are damaged.


Diabetes complications are problems that result from the blood sugar going too low or too high. Both low and high blood sugar can cause short and long term problems that are expensive to treat, and also are disruptive and even devastating to the person's life.

Short term blood sugar emergencies are expensive and disruptive. They often require treatment in an emergency room or a hospital stay. These are very expensive forms of medical treatment.

Low blood sugar can be a result of too much diabetes medication, too little food, or an unusually large amount of exercise. If a person knows how to recognize the signs of low blood sugar and treat it early, it can be treated at home. If a person does not know these things, low blood sugar can cause a person to lose consciousness and have convulsions. The person can often require emergency treatment by an ambulance crew and a hospital emergency room. If untreated, low blood sugar can even cause death.

High blood sugar can result from infections and illness, extreme stress, too little diabetes medication, and too much of the wrong kinds of foods. If a person knows how to recognize high blood sugar and treat it early, it can usually be treated at home. If a person does not know these things, high blood sugar can make a person very sick. It often requires a two or three day hospital stay. If untreated, high blood sugar can cause a person to lose consciousness, and if untreated, to die.

Long term high blood sugar can harm and even destroy vital organs.

Long term high blood sugar damages the blood vessels, and therefore damages every part of the body that needs good circulation. Vulnerable organs include such as the heart, the brain, the kidneys, the eyes, and the feet. In pregnant women with diabetes, high blood sugar can cause many serious problems, including birth defects.

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause:

Heart Disease and Stroke - People with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have heart disease, and 5 times more likely to suffer a stroke.

Kidney disease - Diabetes accounts for 1/3 of all cases of kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a transplant.

Blindness - Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working-aged people in the U.S.

Amputation - Leg amputations are 27.7 times more common among people with diabetes.

Treatment and rehabilitation of diabetes complications in Ohio is expensive. Over 700,000 Ohio residents have diabetes. That is about 1/16 of our population. Annual Ohio healthcare expenditures for people with diabetes exceed $4.5 billion. This means that 1/7 of Ohio's healthcare costs are spent on diabetes. Every year, 33,000 more Ohioans are diagnosed with diabetes.

These costly and devastating problems can be prevented. People who have diabetes can learn how to control it and keep their blood sugar levels close to normal. To do this, they need both diabetes self-management education and necessary diabetes supplies.



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