Getting a Good Diagnosis: Diabetes Care

If you or a loved one live with diabetes, St. Vincent’s can help you with a diagnosis as well as advice on how to cope with this condition (exercise, nutrition/diet, mental health), monitor and minimize diabetes’ health hazards and provide expert medical treatment. We offer support groups and education to make getting a good diagnosis—and living with diabetes—as easy as possible. 

It's important to understand the impact of diabetes on health and know how to live with this condition.Myths about diabetes. About 24 million people in the United States have diabetes and the number is growing. Of these, 6 million people are unaware they have it. 

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious metabolic disease in which the body cannot properly use and store glucose (sugar). Glucose backs up in the bloodstream, increasing blood glucose levels which, over time, can damage blood vessels and vital organs.

There are two types of diabetes, Diabetes Type 1 and Diabetes Type 2.  Type 1 and Type 2 have different causes, but the same problem: how effectively the body produces or uses insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates the body’s ability to use glucose. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes share similar signs and symptoms. 

Type 1 Diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas completely stops producing insulin, the hormone that allows the body to use glucose (the main type of sugar found in foods) for energy. Once known as juvenile onset diabetes because it was thought to most often develop in childhood or in young adults, diabetes type 1 can begin at any age.

  • Daily insulin injections must be taken by diabetes type 1 patients in order to survive. Synthetic insulin taken by these patients is manufactured using a process called recombinant DNA, and is very safe.

  • Diabetes type 1 is generally considered a disease with a genetic component and to-date it has not been shown to be preventable. As yet, however, there is no certain cure for the disease.


Type 2 Diabetes: 

This is the most common type of diabetes and a growing epidemic due to America’s increasing obesity. Unlike type 1 diabetes, symptoms often come on more slowly. Organs such as kidneys and eyes may have already become damaged and must be carefully examined as soon as the disease is diagnosed. 

  • Family history and genetics may play a large role.
  • Low activity level, poor diet, and excess body weight (especially around the waist) can significantly increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • It has been seen to produce remission of diabetes type 2, though not type 1.weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery)In some adults with this form of the disease and extreme obesity, 

Diagnosing Diabetes

St. Vincent’s skilled doctors and specialists can help you or your loved one determine if your symptoms are Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes using the most up-to-date developments in diabetes detection and treatment.

St. Vincent’s diabetes experts know early detection, treatment and lifestyle changes increase life expectancy for diabetes patients as well slow down or prevent diabetes-related conditions (organ damage, loss of a foot or limb due to infection, difficulty with wound healing).

Diabetes: Signs and Symptoms

Contact your physician if you think you are at risk for diabetes or if diagnosed, need help with managing your care. In some cases of diabetes type 2, there are no symptoms or they may be so gradual they are ignored.

Symptoms of diabetes type 1, however, generally come on more quickly. Regardless of the diabetes type, the signs and symptoms listed below require your immediate attention.

  • Being very thirsty  (polydypsia)
  • Frequent urination (polyuria)
  • Increased hunger (polyphagia)
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Blurry vision 
  • Irritability or “crankiness”
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities (hands/fingers or feet/toes) 
  • Frequent skin, bladder or gum infections 
  • Slow-healing wounds  
  • Extreme, unexplained fatigue

Diabetes Prevention

Diabetes type 1 follows the same lifestyle and treatment recommendations as type 1. Recent findings regarding the impact of weight-loss and weight-loss surgery on patients with diabetes type 2, however, indicate these may have positive success in reducing or reversing diabetes in many obese patients. This does not hold true for diabetes type 1.

According to the American Diabetes Associations, these factors may also increase the risk of developing diabetes.  This includes having high blood pressure, race/ethnicity, having a family history of diabetes and being over age 45 as well as:

  • Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and/or impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
  • Testing for low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides 
  • Being a woman who had gestational diabetes or gave birth to an infant weighing 9 lbs. or more
  • The percentage of Americans age 65 and older remains high, at 25.9%, or 11.8 million seniors (diagnosed and undiagnosed)
  • The rates of diagnosed diabetes by race/ethnic background are: 7.6% of non-Hispanic whites 9.0% of Asian Americans 12.8% of Hispanics 13.2% of non-Hispanic blacks 15.9% of American Indians/Alaskan Natives

How to Prevent Diabetes? Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose veggies and protein over carbs and avoid sugar.
  • Exercise regularly. Recommended: 30 minutes per day, low impact, and swimming/walking are best.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and know your Body Mass Index (BMI):      
    • BMI 18.5-24.9 normal 
    • BMI 25-29.9 overweight 
    • BMI 30 and above-obese
  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke, stop.
  • Avoid alcohol or limit your intake.

Diabetes Treatment: What You Can Expect

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll first discuss your treatment plan with your primary care physician. Diabetes management requires a team to keep you or your loved one healthy.

At St. Vincent’s, you will see a board-certified endocrinologist or other specialists such as a podiatrist for foot management care and making an annual ophthalmologist for an eye exam to check for retinopathy. You will meet with a certified diabetes educator and dietitian to plan your diet and understand what you can and can’t eat.

If you or your loved one have diabetes can count on St. Vincent’s multidisciplinary team approach for the management of their diabetes care that include advance-practice registered nurses (APRNs), physician assistants (PAs), quality improvement personnel and laboratory specialists.


Your Wellness Role:

Understand your diabetes symptoms and lifestyle choices and you’ll find that your diabetes doesn’t interfere with your day to day life. Be sure to follow your doctors’ and dietitian's advice to the T.

  • Knowing your ABC’s of diabetes: A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol

  • Monitoring your blood glucose regularly

  • Follow a carbohydrate-controlled diet; no cheating

  • Understand sick day management

  • Understand your treatment. You may need to take oral antidiabetic agents or insulin (type 1 diabetes requires insulin management; type 2 diabetes may require insulin or oral antidiabetic agents; it is not uncommon for type 2 diabetics to take insulin)

  • Good oral hygiene is crucial; see a dentist every six months

  • A MedicAlert may be recommended


Diabetes Information & Education: Click here for special events, lectures and support group information.

Call St. Vincent's at 203-575-6168 for additional information.

Diabetes Resources:

Check out these online health resources to help you live healthy with diabetes:


To find a St. Vincent’s physician who can discuss your health concerns or those of a loved one, please click on our FIND A DOCTOR tool and search by specialty, practice, location or keyword. We’re here to help you locate the medical expert you need. 

To speak with someone at the front desk of the Medical Center, please call (203) 576-6000