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The cost of ignoring diabetes

In my early 40’s I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes along with high blood pressure (hypertension). I followed my doctors regimen of medications and over time I lost weight (122 lbs to date) and had my blood sugar under control. My regular doctor visits became spread apart further and further as I was following my directions and I was doing fine. The costs of these medications increased over time and I decided on my own that since I was no longer having problems, I didn’t need to take my medications.

Those, such as myself, who fail to realize how uncontrolled diabetes can cause health complications ranging from loss of sight, damaged kidneys, heart problems and even amputation. Poorly managed diabetes leads to nerve damage, a side-effect known as diabetic neuropathy, and also restricts blood flow to the extremities, making it harder for wounds to heal. Left untreated, within just weeks even a minor foot injury, such as a blister, can lead to infection and gangrene. In many cases this occurs when sufferers simply don’t give the condition enough respect labeled by psychologists as diabetic denial.

Almost three years after I stopped taking my medications, I experienced a change that has affected me emotionally as well as physically. I’ve put myself through a harrowing realization that by not taking my condition seriously I have decreased my quality of life. So now, due to my “diabetic denial”, I now have one less “little piggy!” From an unknown blister/sore between my pinky toe and fourth toe on my right foot that became infected to losing the fourth toe altogether. It is still being treated by my wound care doctor but is looking better at each dressing change. During my hospital stay I was introduced to several teams of doctors. The surgeons team which is also my wound care doctor, the infectious disease team which was charged with ensuring my bone infection was clear, the nephrology team which ensured my kidneys were working and my regular doctors team.

I write this in hopes that somebody somewhere reads it and it helps them. I haven’t spoken of this much at all, not even to family and friends. It’s taken me a bit of time and I’m not sure I’ve dealt with it in a sane manner. Luckily my family that is around me everyday have kept me smiling and laughing, even sending me “lack-toes intolerant” memes the day of my surgery. I’m getting my blood sugar back under control again and back on medications that are less costly.

According to the CDC, more than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, up from the previous estimate of 26 million in 2010. One in four people with diabetes doesn’t know he or she has it. Another 86 million adults – more than one in three U.S. adults – have prediabetes, where their blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Without weight loss and moderate physical activity, 15 percent to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

Type 2 diabetes usually happens later in life and is linked with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle – although spiraling rates of obesity in children have led to an unprecedented explosion in this form of the disease, too. But regardless of the type, the risks and side-effects of both conditions are exactly the same – which is why they both need close monitoring. Take it from me, monitoring is a life changer!

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