Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects the way your body uses glucose (blood sugar). Glucose is your brain’s main source of energy. It also fuels other important body functions like muscle movement.
The best diabetes care focuses on the most current research and treatments. The team of skilled healthcare professionals from the Cray Diabetes Self-Management Center at The University of Kansas Health System works to help you enjoy a full life that’s not limited by your diabetes symptoms.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes causes blood sugar levels to rise above normal levels. After you eat a meal, it’s normal for blood sugar levels to increase. The pancreas releases insulin to help make sure that this glucose gets to the cells that need energy the most. In people with diabetes, however, blood sugar is not lowered as effectively. This can happen for a few different reasons:
- The pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin
- The insulin that is produced doesn't work well enough
- The receiving cells don't respond properly to insulin
Some people are born with diabetes, and other people develop diabetes over time. More than 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.
Types of diabetes
Some people may be diagnosed with prediabetes, a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes can become type 2 diabetes if symptoms are left untreated.
Diabetes symptoms and risks
Not everyone experiences symptoms with diabetes. Symptoms can vary from person to person and can also vary depending on your blood sugar levels.
Some symptoms common to diabetes include:
- Excessive hunger
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
- Feeling unusually irritable
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination, including bedwetting in children
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid weight loss with no clear cause
- Recurrent infections, such as gum infections, skin infections or vaginal infections
- Wounds or sores that take a long time to heal
The risks for developing diabetes differ by type. Because type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition, having a close relative with type 1 diabetes is the primary risk factor. Doctors aren’t sure how to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes has multiple risk factors:
- Being over the age of 45
- Being overweight
- Having a close family member with type 2 diabetes
- Having prediabetes
- Having previously had gestational diabetes
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
Type 1 diabetes is seen more often in Caucasians, and type 2 diabetes is seen more often in African-Americans, Latino-Americans and Native Americans.
Diabetes diagnosis and screening
To diagnose diabetes, your doctor may use one or several tests to measure your blood sugar levels:
- A1C (glycated hemoglobin) test: Measures your average blood sugar levels over the previous few months
- Fasting blood sugar test: Tests your blood sugar levels following an overnight fast
- Glucose tolerance test: This test begins with an overnight fast followed by a blood sugar test, then drinking an oral sugar solution, then measuring blood sugar again over the following 2 hours
- Random blood sugar test: Checks your blood sugar at a random time for levels over 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
Recognized among the nation’s best
U.S. News & World Report recognized our program as high performing in its 2021-22 Best Hospitals report. The honor places our care among the top 10% of diabetes and endocrinology programs evaluated. We are proud to provide you and your loved ones with nationally recognized care.
When the body can’t properly regulate blood sugar levels, a combination of diabetes treatments can help manage the symptoms of diabetes. Making diabetic-friendly dietary and lifestyle changes is an essential part of living with diabetes:
- Eat a sensible low-sugar diet that centers around whole foods and lean protein
- Exercise regularly – exercise helps lower blood sugar levels
- Maintain a normal, healthy weight
You should always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine or making any dietary changes. Your doctor may recommend that you work with a registered dietitian to help you create a customized meal plan. If blood sugar levels remain high despite these changes, your doctor may suggest diabetes medication as well.
In addition to tracking blood sugar, type 1 diabetics will also need medication to control their insulin levels:
- An insulin pump, which can be programmed to deliver a consistent level of insulin
- Manual insulin injections, either by syringe or using an insulin pen
- Oral medication – although insulin cannot be taken orally, other medications can help aid insulin and glucose functions in different ways to manage diabetes symptoms
Other possible treatments for diabetes include an artificial pancreas system or a pancreas transplant.
Why choose us for diabetes care
The Cray Diabetes Self-Management Center at The University of Kansas Health System is recognized by the American Diabetes Association as meeting national standards for diabetes education and support. We provide ongoing, personalized education and support to help you build the knowledge and skills you need to manage your diabetes.
Additionally, the Cray Diabetes Self-Management Center stands as the clinical arm of the KU Diabetes Institute, where translational research, innovative educational technology and practices are implemented.
As a patient, you may be eligible to participate in clinical research. You'll have the opportunity to receive the most advanced therapies or procedures that are only available when you participate in a clinical trial. Our endocrinologist will discuss your eligibility for clinical trials.
Your diabetes care team
We believe in a collaborative approach to treatment. In addition, we feel the relationship between you and your healthcare provider is important, so you will see the same doctor and/or educator as long as you continue your treatment with us. We also work closely with your primary care physician to achieve the best outcome. Your team will include:
- A certified diabetes educator
- A registered dietitian nutritionist
- An endocrinologist
- Mid-level diabetes specialist (either a physician assistant or nurse practitioner)
- Other resources, as needed
Diabetes resources and support
It's not always easy to maintain the diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes necessary to reduce your risk of complications. During your periodic visits, we'll provide you with the latest information about maintaining your health. At the health system, we are dedicated to providing the care, education and emotional support needed throughout your life. We offer accredited group and one-on-one classes led by a certified diabetes educator and/or licensed dietitian. Topics include:
- Carbohydrate counting and meal planning
- Comprehensive education for patients newly diagnosed with diabetes
- Latest diabetes technology available
- Monitoring blood glucose and pattern management
Your primary care physician must refer you to a group or one-on-one class. Although one-on-one sessions are covered by Medicaid, group classes are not. Contact your insurance provider for more information.