Living with Diabetes

From a Patient’s Point of View

Living with Diabetes

What is Diabetes? How common is it?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported more than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes. One in four people with diabetes have not been diagnosed. Additionally, one in three adults has prediabetes. Visit the following website for more information and updates about Diabetes reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/home/index.html.Diabetes is a disease where your body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and regulates the amount of glucose in the blood allowing it to be turned into energy and used, or stored. This impairment results in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates causing elevated glucose levels in the blood.

The two most common types of diabetes include:

Type 1 diabetes – This means your body does not make insulin. Insulin is the hormone that guides glucose (energy from food) through to your body’s cells via your bloodstream. Without insulin, the glucose remains in the blood stream causing elevated blood sugar and prevents the glucose from being turned into energy. When you have Type 1 diabetes you must inject insulin every day.

Type 2 diabetes – Type 2 is the more common type of diabetes and tends to develop later in life. A diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes means your body does not produce enough insulin or resists the effects of insulin. Management of Type 2 diabetes can include taking prescription pills or insulin to help control the impact on the body’s metabolism.

How do I know if I am Diabetic?

People at risk for diabetes often struggle with losing weight, low energy/inactivity, and/or are living with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The risk of developing diabetes can increase with age, especially if you have a family history of diabetes.

Ask your doctor about a simple blood test to find out if you have diabetes or a condition called prediabetes.

One of these tests is called the A1C test. It provides information about your average levels of blood glucose (blood sugar) over the past 3 months. An A1C test can be done at your doctor’s office, a lab or local pharmacy. During the test, a trained technician or pharmacist will take a blood sample from your finger and run it through a special machine. You don’t have to fast or skip meals for this test so this one is convenient to schedule any time during your day. The A1C test may be considered diagnostic; therefore, it may not be covered at 100% and there could be a higher cost to the patient. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Name/uspstf-a-and-b-recommendations/) lists ‘Diabetes Screening’ for over-weight adults ages 40-70 as preventive medicine. Unitedhealthcare covers the cost of services that are coded as ‘preventive care’ for ASRS Health Care Plan Participants.  For detailed information about how Preventive Care differs from Diagnostic (Specialist) Care please see the ASRS Health Care Blog article Preventive Care vs. Specialist Care and ask your physician or medical provider if the test is considered preventive. Note that some preventive tests may have additional prep requirements such as fasting. Remember to ask your doctor if the tests are part of an annual wellness physical, and keep in mind it is always a good idea to call the number on your health insurance I.D. card to discuss specific coverage questions with a UHC representative. You can also log in to your account on www.myuhc.com and use the cost estimator to help determine the estimated out-of-pocket cost for services in advance.

The Dangers of Diabetes

Diabetes can negatively impact your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and can also make you at risk for other diseases. People with diabetes can be prone to skin infections and bladder/urinary tract infections and having diabetes can make it more difficult for your body to heal. Additionally, uncontrolled diabetes can also have an adverse effect on your feet, eyes, and teeth.

Impact to your feet:

Diabetes can cause nerve damage in your feet called neuropathy. This is described as tingling, pain, burning, stinging, or weakness. Neuropathy in your feet can also decrease your sensitivity to temperatures or injury.

Impact to your eyes:

Diabetes can increase the risk for several eye conditions like double vision, dry eyes, blurry vision or recurring eyelid infections. Uncontrolled diabetes can put you at risk to develop other diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

How does this happen? Damage in the eye occurs when your blood sugar is too high. Other factors such as high cholesterol and smoking can also increase the risk of damage. This can be more dangerous for some people because not everyone experiences warning signs. The most common warning sign is blurred vision. This reduces once the blood sugar normalizes. If the blood sugar does not normalize, vessels in the eyes could be permanently damaged.

Impact to your oral health:

Did you know there is a connection between diabetes and gum disease? High blood sugar can increase the risk for gum disease and because diabetes can make it more difficult for your body to heal, it may take months for an infection to be completely resolved. Discomfort caused by common symptoms of diabetes can make it difficult to chew healthy foods such as raw vegetables and lean proteins. This can lead to softer food choices which are usually higher in starch and can also elevate blood sugar. Eating starchy foods regularly can also make eating a balanced diet more challenging which can impact overall health.

What can I do to help manage my diabetes?

Take care of yourself: Managing your diabetes can help you feel better. Remember diabetes causes elevated blood sugar, but when your blood sugar is closer to normal, you are likely to have more energy, be less tired, have fewer infections, and reduce other risks commonly associated with diabetes.

Protect your feet: Always wear protective shoes especially when outside. After bathing or showering, dry your feet thoroughly and moisturize them with a lotion approved by your doctor. Applying lotion or oil between your toes can lead to infection, so use caution and follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

Be observant: Be sure to check your skin, especially your feet every day for cuts, blisters, calluses, red spots, and swelling. Call your health care team right away about any sores that do not go away and ask your doctor to inspect any areas of concern routinely.

Take care of your mouth: Brush your teeth and floss every day to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy. Remember to schedule an appointment with your dentist at least two times a year for an exam and cleaning.

Talk to your medical professionals: By scheduling regular appointments with your doctors, you will have a better chance of maintaining your diabetes issues and managing symptoms. If you need help scheduling an appointment with your doctor, please call UnitedHealthcare at the number listed on the back of your member ID card.

For more information about living with diabetes symptoms visit the American Diabetes Association website at http://www.diabetes.org/.

United Healthcare Diabetic Support Program

If you have diabetes, you can find support through your doctor, a diabetes education center, or a Registered Nurse with UnitedHealthcare®’s Diabetic Support program.

As a member of a UnitedHealthcare® Group Medicare Advantage plan, the UnitedHealthcare Diabetic Support program is offered at no additional cost and provides information to help members understand diabetes, tools, support and coaching that may help you with your diabetes management.

This program does not replace the care of a doctor. If you have questions about your benefits or coverage, call UnitedHealthcare Customer Service toll-free at the number on the back of your member ID card.

by Courtney Micheau,  Member Services


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