"It can seem overwhelming at first," Lawrence Phillips, MD, an endocrinologist with Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, tells WebMD. "Diabetes is a new world for most people. They are uncertain what the future holds for their health."
Heart attack, stroke, blindness, amputation, kidney failure. When doctors describe these diabetes complications, it may sound melodramatic -- like an overblown worst-case scenario. The truth is, these things can happen when blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol are out of control.
"A lot of people don't really think it will happen to them," says David C. Ziemer, MD, director of the Diabetes Clinic at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. "For a lot of folks, the wake-up comes when they actually...
Diane Schafer, LDN/RD, is a certified diabetes educator at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans. She's counseled scores of patients. "Often they don't really hear what I say," she tells WebMD. "They're thinking, 'Why me? Why is God punishing me?'"
In today's medical world, type 2 diabetes is a manageable problem -- "it is not your fate," Phillips says. "You have the ability to control your destiny. This is a serious disease, it's a silent killer, and bad things can happen if we don't take care of it. But we know how to monitor the disease, and we're much better able to take care of it now. We know how to screen for and manage complications. The prognosis is very, very good."
Yet anger is often the first reaction: "This should not be happening to me," one woman told Schafer. "I watch what I eat, I get regular exercise, I don't understand this." Unfortunately, if a father or mother had type 2 diabetes, their child has an increased risk of developing the disease.
Denial is common: When the local football coach was diagnosed, Schafer talked to him once -- but hasn't seen him since. Turns out, his mother had diabetes, began taking insulin, yet she went blind, Schafer says. "Just because his mother had those experiences, that doesn't mean he will, too. But if he doesn't come back, he won't learn what he needs to do."
Guilt, depression, and anxiety are rampant: "This is terrible," said one man to Schafer. "It will affect the rest of my life."
Schafer says she feels empathy; she developed diabetes during a pregnancy. Her dad has type 2 diabetes. "I could get it back tomorrow," she says.
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