November is Diabetes Awareness month, and the medical community wants to use this time to help eliminate the stigma surrounding diabetes by educating people.
There are over 23 million people with diabetes in the country. Oklahoma is ranked 8th for the highest number of cases.
“It’s not just because of our eating habits, it’s because of our genetic makeup and our family history,” said Michelle White, Certified Diabetes Educator. “All of those things that go hand in hand. But we have so many people that have diabetes or pre-diabetes and aren’t even aware that they have it because they don’t feel bad.”
White is a Registered nurse and certified diabetes educator at the Lawton Community Health Center. She says the symptoms that come with diabetes can often be mistaken as normal aging signs or common cold symptoms.
“Diabetes can cause really dry skin, so you itch a lot,” said White. “Frequent urination during the day and night. A severe thirst that you just can’t get enough water. Sweaty, clammy, a little nauseous, dizziness, things like that. And on both sides, is a hunger. You’re not just hungry, you’re ‘hangry’.”
White says that she herself has diabetes, and says there is a misconception about the disease. She says while food and exercise do play a part, diabetes is caused by an insulin deficiency or insulin resistance in the pancreas.
“We have to get past that stigma,” said White. “They didn’t do it to themselves. I didn’t do it to myself. Mine was from an underlying disease and my medications that I had to take. And I fought long and hard and followed the meal plan. I did everything right and still ended up with that pancreatic disorder.”
White says growing up her grandfather had diabetes. That and then when her brother got diagnosed with it, is why she got into this field of work. To learn more about it, and to help educate others.
“Just the everyday reality of this is a caustic disease and it takes time. It’s frustrating,” said White. “There’s days when you think you’ve done everything perfect just exactly what your doctor said and your numbers are still high. And that frustration makes you just miserable.”
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes and would like some help with diabetes management, contact your health care provider for a referral to talk with the diabetes educators at the Lawton Community Health Center.