Diabetes risks, symptoms and prevention

Established in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and celebrated each year on Nov. 14, World Diabetes Day aims to raise awareness about the impacts of the disease and elevate it to a global health priority. Today, an estimated 537 million people live with diabetes worldwide.  

As part of the 2021 World Diabetes Day celebration, the UF Diabetes Institute produced a series of videos featuring members of the UF community sharing what it’s like to live with diabetes. Check out the series here and read on to learn more about diabetes, how you can catch it early and resources available to support you right here at UF. 

What is diabetes?

Diabetes affects the body’s ability to make and use insulin properly. When our bodies digest food, sugar is released into the bloodstream. Insulin, a hormone, is then produced as a result of the spike in blood sugar levels caused by digestion. Cells use insulin to take in sugar from the blood, which they then use for energy. Without the ability to make or use insulin caused by diabetes, sugar remains in the blood where it can lead to further complications.

Common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Fatigue
  • Numbness in the hands or feet
  • Dry skin
  • Frequent urination, often at night
  • Increased thirst and appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Slow healing wounds

Many individuals may be at risk of becoming diabetic and not even be aware of it. Prediabetes is a term used to describe when a person’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is especially concerning because it has no symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 96 million American adults pave prediabetes, out of which more than 80 percent are unaware of their status.

You can learn more about prediabetes by listening to our Wellness Talk episode Self-Assessment for Prediabetes Prevention featuring UF Community Health & Family Medicine Professor and Vice Chair of Research Chip Mainous, Ph.D.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with diabetes, be sure to check out the following UF resources:  

  • The UF Diabetes Institute offers a variety of educational, community-based and material resources for people living with diabetes.
  • Explore GatorCare’s prediabetes and diabetes resources.
  • UF/IFAS Extension has published a series of articles on diabetes management, including meal planning, diabetes care while sick, and other topics.
  • UF Health provides diabetes education and nutrition counseling to patients with physician referrals.

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