Senator Oppenheimer Urges Greater Awareness Of Diabetes

Suzi Oppenheimer

November 13, 2007

In recognition of November as Diabetes Awareness Month, State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck) today encouraged New Yorkers to learn the risk factors and early symptoms associated with a debilitating disease that affects millions of Americans, though authorities estimate that about one in three cases goes undiagnosed.

"Given the condition’s enormous impact, we should probably make every month diabetes awareness month," said Senator Oppenheimer. "I want Westchester residents to understand just how devastating an undiagnosed and untreated case of diabetes can become."

Consider these facts from the American Diabetes Association:

Nearly 21 million children and adults in the United States are living with diabetes.

More than six million of them, or roughly a third, don't know they have the disease.

Diabetes is the fifth-deadliest disease in the United States.

Compared to the general population, African-Americans are disproportionately
affected by diabetes: 3.2 million or 13.3% of all African Americans aged 20 years
or older have diabetes.

If the current trend continues, one out of two minorities born in 2000 will develop
diabetes in their lifetime.

Some types of diabetes can be delayed or prevented by simple lifestyle changes.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that converts sugar and other food into energy. The cause of diabetes is not thoroughly understood, although genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

"Diabetes often goes undiagnosed because many of its symptoms seem so harmless," Senator Oppenheimer noted. "Yet early detection is very important. Studies show that early treatment can decrease the chance of developing the complications of diabetes."

According to the American Diabetes Association, some diabetes symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability and blurry vision.

Everyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of vision loss in adults. However, early detection of diabetes and timely treatment can significantly reduce the risk of blindness.

In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, Eyecare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, encourages people age 65 and older to take advantage of its Diabetes Eyecare Program, a year-round program that offers eye exams and up to one year of care at no out-of-pocket cost to qualified patients. For more information or a referral to one of 7,200 volunteer ophthalmologists, call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-272-3937.

"Everyone knows someone with diabetes, whether be it a relative, co-worker or friend," Senator Oppenheimer concluded. "I urge you all to take diabetes seriously. Far too many people do not see diabetes as the serious, potentially life-threatening condition that it truly is. "