November is diabetes awareness month in Canada. With more than 9 million Canadians currently living with diabetes or prediabetes, there is a need for greater awareness about the disease and its risk factors, signs and symptoms.
By the numbers
- More than 30% of Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes
- More than 20 people are diagnosed with the disease every hour of every day
- Annual direct health care costs of diabetes are estimated to be $17 billion by 2024
- Approximately 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes
- If you are over the age of 40, the Canadian Diabetes Association recommends you get checked every three years
What is diabetes?
As defined by the Canadian Diabetes Association,
Diabetes is a chronic, often debilitating and sometimes fatal disease, in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. The body needs insulin to use glucose as an energy source.”
There are three types of diabetes:
Type 1: In this disease, the immune system mistakenly kills the beta cells in the pancreas, which normally produce insulin. It is usually diagnosed during childhood or adolescence and is treated with insulin injections and a healthy lifestyle of a balanced diet and exercise.
Type 2: In this disease, the body cannot properly use the insulin that it produces or it doesn’t produce enough of it. It is usually diagnosed in adulthood, but it can also occur in children. The primary treatment involves a healthy lifestyle of a balanced diet and exercise, and may include insulin or other medications.
Gestational diabetes: This is a temporary form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, and it affects about 2% to 4% of all pregnancies. Gestational diabetes increases the risk of the mother and baby developing diabetes in the future.
People can reduce their chances of getting diabetes by understanding the risk factors associated with the disease. Some of these include:
- Having a parent or sibling with the disease (especially in cases of type 1 diabetes)
- Being in a high-risk ethnic group, including Aboriginal, African, Asian or Hispanic
- Having health issues such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- Being overweight
- Being diagnosed with prediabetes
Signs and symptoms of diabetes
There are many common symptoms that could indicate diabetes. The most common symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Lack of energy
- Unusual thirst
- Sudden weight change
- Frequent urination
- Recurring infections
- Slower-than-normal healing from cuts and bruises
- Numbness in the feet or hands
- Erectile issues
Signs and symptoms in children are similar. Be on the lookout for a lack of energy, excessive drinking and more frequent urination; younger children may start to wet the bed again.
It’s important to note that many people live with type 2 diabetes and do not display the common symptoms of the disease.
If you or are family member has any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.
Provincial health care and diabetes
Most provincial health care systems don’t cover the costs of medications, with the exception of protected groups, such as seniors or low-income families.
Aileen Leo is the executive director of government relations and public affairs at the Canadian Diabetes Association, and she is just one of the people behind the recently introduced Diabetes Charter for Canada. “If you’re low income, even if you’re middle income, the costs of diabetes medications, devices and supplies may be beyond your reach,” she says. “I’ve been to many advocate-training days where people have talked about ending up in the hospital because they simply couldn’t afford their medication.”
If you or a family member were recently diagnosed with diabetes, it is vital to get proper care. If you have a private health insurance plan, it can help offset the treatment and medical costs that are not covered by OHIP or an employee group insurance plan.
How to get involved
There are many ways you can help support the Canadian Diabetes Association. You can donate clothing or funds, or even support an event.
Disclaimer: Ontario Blue Cross is providing this blog for informational purposes only. References to any third-party products, services or professional associations do not constitute their endorsement or recommendation by Ontario Blue Cross.