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Lehigh Valley

Warning signs of diabetes

Globally, close to 371 million people have the disease

Warning signs of diabetes

November 14th marks World Diabetes Day.

The day was created by the World Health Organization and International Diabetes Federation in 1991 to bring awareness to a growing health problem.

According to a recent study by the International Diabetes Federation, globally, close to 371 million people have the disease and nearly half are undiagnosed.

The majority of people living with diabetes in the United States are of type 2.

However both the symptoms and the complications are exactly the same for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics.

If left untreated diabetes can lead to blindness, plus cardiovascular complications such as heart attack and stroke.

"It could lead to amputations. It could lead to kidney failure. Many patients end up being on dialysis because of the complications of diabetes," said Connie Molchany, a nurse practitioner in the diabetes and endocrinology department at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

So who can get it?

Turns out, type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disorder, mostly diagnosed at a younger age, where the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether.

Experts said possible risk factors for type 1 diabetes include genetics, geography, viral exposure and family history. The people affected also tend to be of a thinner build.

"Insulin is the hormone that allows blood sugar to go into the cells to give the body's cells energy and allow the cells to work in your body," said Molchany.

As for type 2 diabetes, risk factors include weight, fat distribution, family history, inactivity, race and age.

"Type 2 diabetes is not a deficiency in the hormone insulin; it is rather that the insulin being put out but it's not working as well as it should. It's majorly a problem of insulin resistance," Molchany said.

Symptoms of diabetes include increased urination, excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, blurry vision and tiredness.

Medical experts say a simple blood test will clear any doubts.

However, a positive diagnosis is not a "death sentence" according to Molchany.

"There are many treatments and therapies today that are easier than they ever were in the past, and it's very important to get in and get screened because in the long run, you'll be happy that you did," Molchany said.

Molchany adds adopting a healthier lifestyle along with weight loss, can significantly decrease chances of complications from diabetes, especially for type 2 diabetics.

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