HOUSTON (September 03, 2015)

According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 29 million Americans have diabetes. What may be more alarming, more than a quarter of those don’t realize they have diabetes.

“Some people aren’t quick to recognize diabetes because the symptoms can vary from individual to individual,” says Dr. Lakshmi Seshadri, MD, internist, affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. “Some may just not feel well, for others it may be an infection that won’t heal. Some people are afraid to see their doctor and that’s the biggest mistake they make, ignoring the symptoms.”

Diabetes is a condition in which the body doesn’t properly process food into energy. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use as energy. The pancreas is an organ that produces insulin which helps to get the glucose into the cells of our body. When you have diabetes, either the pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin or the insulin produced isn’t being used efficiently which can cause sugar to build up in the blood.

Diabetes can lead to serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower-extremity amputations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

So what are the symptoms of diabetes? Doctors often refer to the three P’s, polydipsia, polyuria and polyphagia or excessive thirst, frequent urination and hunger. Unexplained weight loss, blurred vision and increased infections can also be signs of diabetes.

“The good news is diabetes is treatable if the patient can follow the plan,” says Dr. Seshadri. “You have to find the right combination of diet, lifestyle and medication for the individual. It’s truly a team effort among the patient and the doctor to manage diabetes.”

Anthony Reina is a patient of Dr. Seshadri and was in his early 50s when he was diagnosed with diabetes. “I’m on the road quite a bit for work and I just thought I was tired,” says Reina. “I didn’t notice some of the typical symptoms associated with diabetes.”

Reina is managing his diabetes thanks to the diet, exercise and lifestyle plan developed by Dr. Seshadri. “It’s a balancing act. You have to find the right balance of diet, medication and lifestyle that works for the individual,” says Dr. Seshadri.

“It’s a struggle,” says Reina. “I’m a stubborn man and I like to eat but I really don’t like Dr. Seshadri fussin’ at me so I work hard to stay on track.”

Reina says the adjustments Dr. Seshadri has made to his diet and medication have helped him feel much better. “I sleep better, I have more energy and instead of my sugar spiking or dropping I stay more in the middle,” says Reina. “Together we’re making it work. I tell her (Dr. Seshadri) don’t give up on me, don’t kick me to the curb.”

Dr. Seshadri says if you notice any of the symptoms associated with diabetes it’s important to tell your doctor. A simple blood test is used to determine if you have diabetes. “You can live a very healthy, productive life with diabetes,” says Dr. Seshadri. “You just have to take control.”