Eating right and staying active are crucial, but there is also a class of medicines that can help.

Image by Mike Ramm

While most people have likely heard of diabetes, a disease that impacts how the body metabolizes blood sugar, many probably don’t realize the magnitude of its reach.

More than one in 10 U.S. adults has diabetes, while another third of the population has blood sugar levels elevated enough to be considered pre-diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Virginia, more than 12 percent of the adult population has diabetes, reports the American Diabetes Association.

“This is a major health crisis,” says Caroline Huang, an endocrinologist with The Endocrinology Group in Arlington.

While typical symptoms include extreme thirstiness and frequent urination, Huang notes that many patients with the disease, especially in its early stages, may not report having any symptoms at all. That makes screening important for those who are older, overweight or who present other risk factors, such as a family history of the disease.
“Screening is huge—you can do it with your doctor or you can even buy a glucose meter over the counter and do it, or you can go to a health fair and get it done,” she says.

The good news is there are steps people can take to minimize the effects of the disease—there is now a class of medicines that can help manage blood sugar levels and assist with weight loss. At the same time, eating right and staying active are also crucial, Huang says.

While there’s been an “explosion” of new diabetes medicines over the past five to 10 years, she urges that ultimately, “lifestyle is the foundation.”

(Top Doctors 2018February 2018)