Published on 07/21/00

Diabetes Surges in Georgia -- Get Help

A recent report released by the American Diabetes Association and the Georgia Department of Human Resources showed that more than 217,000 Georgians have been diagnosed with diabetes. Another 108,000 are undiagnosed.

And only 6 percent of diagnosed Georgians reported meeting the minimal standards for routine medical care.

Detection, Treatment Are Key

But early detection and proper treatment of diabetes is paramount to living a healthy life with the disease. The first place to look to see if you are at risk is your family tree. Type 2 diabetes, the most common type, has a strong genetic link.

"Often a close relative has the disease," said Connie Crawley, an extension nutrition specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences. "This should alert someone that they might be at risk."

Other warning signs include extreme thirst, frequent need to urinate, unusual fatigue, an infection or wound that won't heal, unexplained weight loss and/or blurred vision.

"Someone with a history of diabetes in the family should be screened for it regularly, especially after age 45," Crawley said. "I would think at least every few years, if not yearly. I would really encourage screening if someone is overweight and out-of-shape or has had gestational diabetes when they were pregnant."

Check Family History

If you have a family history of diabetes or have symptoms, many health departments now provide blood glucose testing free for adults. You can also be tested at pharmacies, hospitals, federally funded community clinics and doctors' offices.

"Unfortunately, many people either don't access or can't access routine medical care," Crawley said. "So they may have Type 2 diabetes up to 10 years before it is diagnosed. The symptoms can be very subtle and misjudged for just the regular signs of aging."

Where To Get Help

UGA Extension Service county offices offer several programs to help Georgians live a healthy lifestyle. The Walk-a-Weigh program is ideal for someone with diabetes. It stresses walking and provides menus for those with the disease.

"Every two months, we still publish the Diabetes Lifelines newsletter," Crawley said. "It is also put up on the Web. We're just now having it translated into Spanish."

Contact your county extension office, too, for a set of 16 diabetes fact sheets on aspects of diabetes self-management.

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.