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Insulin.  It’s a little hormone that can cause a lot of damage if your body doesn’t get enough of it.  Normally, an organ called the pancreas makes insulin from glucose (a sugar that our body makes from the food we eat).  The role of insulin is to move glucose from the bloodstream into your muscle, fat, and liver cells where it can be used as fuel.  If the pancreas isn’t producing insulin, or if the body starts resisting insulin, glucose builds up in the body, blood sugar spikes, and the disease called diabetes sets in. 

Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but it is most often diagnosed in children, teens, or young adults.  It makes up only 5% of diabetic cases.  Daily injections of insulin are needed because with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is unable to create its own insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetic cases. It most often occurs in adulthood, but because of high obesity rates, teens and young adults are now being diagnosed.  With type 2 diabetes, insulin is still produced, but the body becomes resistant to it. If caught early enough, it can be treated. 

Gestational diabetes develops during in a woman during pregnancy and often goes away once she gives birth. It is important to follow medical advice regarding blood sugar levels while pregnant, so both baby and mother remain healthy. 

Warning signs of diabetes:

  • High blood sugar levels
  • Blurry vision
  • Excess thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Urinating often
  • Weight loss


While there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes may be reversed with lifestyle changes, especially losing weight through exercising and eating healthier foods.  Treating both types involves medicine, diet, and exercise to control blood sugar level.  Gaining control over diabetes can also help reduce the risk of other health problems that often come with diabetes such as kidney disease, eye disease, nervous system disease, heart attack, and stroke.  To prevent diabetes complications, visit a WHC health care provider at least two to four times a year.


Diabetes affects more than 20 million Americans, but over 40 million Americans have pre-diabetes (which often develops before type 2 diabetes).  South Central North Dakota is a large contributor to these statistics.  Our 2011 Community Health Needs Assessment ranked diabetes as one of the top health problems in McIntosh and LaMoure counties. Dr. Thammi Vegiraju, a WHC medical doctor that is working to prevent and minimize diabetes in our communities, gives his expertise on the disease:

How has diabetes hit our counties in comparison to others surrounding us?   Dr. Thammi Vegiraju, MD

In North Dakota, diabetic prevalence is about 8%, slightly under the national average.  In McIntosh County alone is at about 11%, likely because we carry one of the highest populations of elderly people in whom diabetes is very common.

What are some things that people do not realize about diabetes?

Most people with diabetes do not realize the importance of tight blood sugar control, until they develop complications. 

What is the true cause of diabetes? 

Lifestyle, food choices, and genetics all play important roles. For example, a person with family history of diabetes is more likely to develop it 10-15 years earlier than his parents did if he has a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits.

Has there been new research or developments in finding a cure for diabetes?

We have lots of options in diabetes treatment, from oral medication to weekly injections. Research is currently going on for pancreatic islet cell transplant that will ultimately help the pancreases produce insulin.   Gastric bypass surgery is also showing promising results in select patients with type 2 diabetes.

What is the best thing someone can do for a friend or family member who has diabetes?

Encourage your diabetic friends to have a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise, eating right, and regularly scheduling check-ups with their primary care provider.  Ninety percent of diabetes management is in the hands of patients; so much encouragement is needed by their network.

What does the WHC offer as far as screenings for diabetes?

We actually screen all adults for diabetes during annual physical.  For children, we screen them if they have risk factors like family history, obesity, etc.  If anyone wants to have their blood glucose checked for signs of diabetes, or if anyone is experiencing symptoms of diabetes, we encourage them to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.


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