Before being diagnosed with diabetes, many patients have unknowingly passed through a stage known as pre-diabetes -- which may have provided a window of opportunity to stop or at least slow the disease.
In this week's Dealing with Diabetes report, Eye on Health takes a look at why that opportunity is so often missed.
Looking back, Las Vegan Bob Maxwell says he should have seen it coming. "If they're aware these problems may exist, and they're going to get diabetes is they don't do something about it, they're going to get out there and try to make a difference in their own life."
Both of his parents were diabetic and his mother died from the disease. "If I would have taken care of myself better, stayed working out like I have in the past, eaten better vs eating whatever I want out here, which is at our fingertips, then I could have possibly avoided it."
Maxwell was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes -- where the body does not produce enough insulin to process blood sugars. The disease has the potential to damage major organs.
But there's a chance that he went through pre-diabetes -- when his blood-sugar levels were above normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Unfortunately, there are no obvious symptoms, so a person's doctor might not order the blood test that can pick up pre-diabetes.
Endocrinologist Fred Toffel says the transition can come on quickly. "Children with type-one diabetes, there's going to be a small window where they'll have pre-diabetes. But they usually go through that stage rapidly. Where this really is a chance is for our adults, particularly for obese adults."
For those on the path to type-two diabetes, knowledge is power. "There's been a number of studies out there that have shown that either with therapeutic lifestyle changes, code word diet and exercise, or medication, one can reduce the chance of getting diabetes," said Toffel.
Pre-diabetes does not have the same destructive power of poorly controlled diabetes. It may, however, call for a lifelong commitment.
"But your eventual chance of developing diabetes is still there. But if it develops in three years instead of developing in 20 years, you've saved yourself a lot of problems," said Toffel.
Your doctor can do a glucose- tolerance test to find out if you have pre-diabetes.
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