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After a routine eye exam, your physician notices some retinal damage and tells you it's time to get tested for Type 2 diabetes. How can your provider know you have diabetes just by checking your eyes?

With Type 2 diabetes, your body does not respond properly to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps convert sugar in the blood into energy. When you become insulin resistant, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used by your cells. To check for diabetes, your physician will perform one or more tests to measure the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood.

If you're interested in a free diabetes screening, Northwest Health Urgent Care in Siloam Springs, 3721 U.S. 412 Hwy., will host a free diabetes screening event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the clinic. Registration is not required. For more information, call 479-215-3124.

Slowly but surely

Insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes don't happen overnight. Many people develop diabetes over a number of years, as their body slowly becomes more and more resistant to insulin. As more sugar builds up in the body over time, the amount of damage done gets worse.

Over time, high blood sugar can damage your heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves. The longer your blood sugar is uncontrolled, the worse the damage can get.

Northwest Health Eye Clinic offers comprehensive eye exams and in-office procedures for treatment of macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and cosmetic features for the aging face. John A. Billingsley III, M.D., is a board-certified ophthalmologist and member of the Siloam Springs Regional Hospital Medical Staff. He performs cataract and glaucoma surgery in addition to oculoplastic procedures and emergency surgeries at the Siloam Springs Regional Hospital outpatient eye surgery suite. To schedule an appointment today, call 479-524-6115.

Taking control

The good news is you can prevent complications from diabetes by controlling your blood sugar. Because damage from diabetes can take years, it's important to make sustainable lifestyle changes. To control your sugar over time, use these tips:

n Get educated. Talk to your physician about resources in your area for diabetes education. Usually covered by insurance, these classes offer comprehensive information about diabetes, preventing problems and glucose control. The more you know, the more you can make smart, healthy choices.

n Make more movement. Regular exercise helps lower your blood sugar without medicine, increases blood flow, and can help burn extra calories and fat. Before changing your exercise routine, talk to your provider.

n Eat smart. Having diabetes doesn't mean never eating cake or chocolate again. However, a balanced diet is key to good sugar control. Talk to your doctor about how much fat, protein and carbohydrates you should be getting every day.

n Check your sugar. With an at-home glucose monitor, you can know your blood sugar level with just a prick of a finger. Set a testing schedule so you know what's normal for you and how well your treatment plan is working.

• Manage medications. There are oral pills and injectable insulin available for patients with diabetes who need help controlling their blood sugar.

What is A1C?

When you have diabetes, you have a build up of sugar in the blood. The A1C test is a blood test that checks your blood sugar levels over a period of three months. The results are a percentage that tells you if you have diabetes and how well it's being controlled.

An A1C test provides doctors with insight into your average blood glucose level during a two- or three-month period. A fasting plasma glucose test determines how much glucose is in your blood after fasting for at least eight hours. The oral glucose tolerance test (which is familiar to pregnant women) involves testing glucose levels both before and two hours after you drink a very sweet drink.

Normal A1C is 5.7 percent or less. If you have an A1C of 6.5 percent or higher, you have diabetes. If you are between 5.7 and 6.4 percent, you have prediabetes. When you have prediabetes, your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not yet at diabetic levels.

Once diagnosed with diabetes, you should have your A1C checked regularly (in addition to daily blood sugar checks) to know how well your diabetes is managed.

Siloam Springs Regional Hospital will host a Diabetic Nutrition class at 12 p.m., Nov. 13, for the community. If you would like to attend, please call 479-215-3125 to reserve a space today. There is no charge and everyone is welcome to attend.

Editorial on 11/07/2018

Print Headline: What you need to know about diabetes

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