Diabetes is a condition caused by the body’s inability to use sugar. Normally, insulin is released from the pancreas to help your body store and use sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin, or when the body does not respond properly to insulin. People with diabetes need to manage their condition to stay healthy.
There are three major types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Understanding Type 1 (Juvenile Diabetes)
Type 1 diabetes most often begins in childhood, and is usually caused by a genetic predisposition. In people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, their bodies do not produce insulin. Treatment for Type 1 diabetes involves taking insulin, which is injected into one's body. People with Type 1 diabetes can lead long, active lives if they carefully manage their glucose, make any necessary lifestyle changes, and adhere to a care plan.
Understanding Type 2
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Approximately 95% of diabetes cases in adults are Type 2, but teenagers and children who are obese can also develop Type 2 diabetes. With Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces some insulin, but the amount produced is either not enough or the body's cells are resistant to it. People who are obese (more than 20% over their ideal body weight) or have prediabetes are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is triggered by pregnancy and often diagnosed in mid-to-late pregnancy. Because high blood sugar levels in a mother are circulated to the baby, gestational diabetes must be controlled to protect the baby's growth and development and preserve the mother’s health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 9% of pregnant women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Treatment during pregnancy includes careful meal planning, daily exercise, managing pregnancy weight gain, and taking insulin to control blood sugar, if needed.
Prediabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are high but not yet within the range of diabetes. Someone with prediabetes has a higher than normal hemoglobin A1c (normal is less than 5.7%), blood glucose (normal is less than 99), and body mass index (normal is less than 25). If left unchecked, this condition can lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or stroke. By taking preventive actions such as dietary changes and exercise, there's still time to control blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes from developing.
Controlling your diabetes
The warning signs of diabetes can go unnoticed, particularly with Type 2 diabetes. Common symptoms include:
- Hunger and fatigue
- Going to the bathroom often and feeling thirsty
- Dry mouth and itchy skin
- Blurred vision
- Sores or cuts that heal slowly
- Pain or numbness in legs or feet
- Unexplained weight loss
If you or a loved one demonstrates any of these signs, please consult with your primary care doctor
Most people with diabetes have a daily routine and know to check their blood sugar. Others may need more help. Below are some ways to manage diabetes:
- Check your hemoglobin A1c every 3–6 months. This test measures your average blood sugar level over a few months. A higher A1c means that you have a higher risk of developing complications.
- Get a Diabetic Retinal Exam yearly. Your eye care provider will review your medical history, use eye drops to widen (dilate) your pupils, examine your eyes, and check your vision.
- Get your urine checked for kidney disease yearly. Your doctor will order urine tests to check for protein in your urine. Increased sugar can lead to protein build-up, which damages the blood vessels in your kidneys.
- Talk to your doctor about whether you should be taking a statin, a cholesterol-lowering drug. If you are a diabetic, you are at higher risk for heart disease. Even if you do not have high cholesterol, your doctor may still want you to take a statin.
- Change your diet. Following a meal plan, eating at the same time every day, not skipping meals, and drinking plenty of fluids can help you keep your diabetes under control.
- Develop an exercise routine. Exercise can positively influence your diabetes. Follow a consistent exercise routine, bring glucose tablets or a snack, and check your blood sugar before and after workouts for better health. Make sure to wear your diabetes ID tag if working out at a gym or other fitness center.
- Minimize stress. Stress can affect blood sugar. To relax, try walking or breathing exercises, meditation, listening to music, and engaging in a favorite hobby like gardening or playing an instrument.
- Check your Feet. Diabetes increases the risk of foot problems. Check your feet regularly for any red spots, blisters, or sores, and wear comfortable, fitted shoes.
- Mind your oral health. People with diabetes have a higher risk of tooth and gum problems. Keep up with your oral health by brushing and flossing every day and visit your dentist regularly. Controlling blood glucose levels can also help prevent gum disease.
Explore Diabetes Tools
Self-care matters, especially when it comes to preventing diabetes. Take this 60-second assessment to determine your risk.
Or, discover the latest tools and apps to meet your health goals
Livongo provides an easy and convenient way to keep track of your health with a smart glucose meter, unlimited testing supplies, and health coaching — all through your cell phone.
In addition to our care managers, we offer on-the-go care with Wellframe, an app that connects you directly to a professional who will work with you to set and meet personalized health goals — on your own terms.
We will provide you with the tools and resources you need to succeed. Health coaching is a free service and completely voluntary for members.
Diabetes Management Program
At Blue Cross Blue Shield, we offer support to members who are living with diabetes or have a prediabetes diagnosis. Our program is designed to help members with diabetes take proper care, especially as this is often a lifelong disease.
Our case managers are here to help you or a loved one cope with the disease and plan ahead. Our case managers will address topics including:
- Questions you should ask your doctor
- Personalized wellness checklists
- Recommended screening tests and treatment goals
- Ways to manage the condition
- Free health coaching over the phone
- Educational materials specific to your type of diabetes
- Self-management tools, including free glucometers
All members 18 years and older identified with diabetes or prediabetes are eligible for the program. Our Right Start program is also available for any woman 18 and older who has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes during their pregnancy.
To enroll, click on the button below, or call one of our case managers at 1-877-878-8785, option 2.