VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System
What is diabetes?
Nearly one in four Veterans receiving care from VA has diabetes, and many of them are not aware that they have the condition. It is estimated that 70 percent of Veterans are overweight or obese, which puts them at a higher risk for developing diabetes.
There are two types of diabetes. Persons who have Type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin, which is a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) to move from the blood into the cells of the body. Glucose, which results when starches are digested, is the fuel that gives the body the energy it needs. This condition can be managed with insulin therapy.
Persons with Type 2 diabetes do produce some insulin, but not enough to maintain blood glucose at normal levels. This is known as "insulin resistance." This condition is can be managed by medications, insulin therapy, or a combination of both.
Both types of diabetes respond better to treatment with lifestyle changes. For example, a healthy diet combined with regular physical activity that maintains an ideal body weight helps medications to work more effectively. In some cases, less medication may be needed.
"Pre-diabetes" occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. These persons are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes in the near future. The good news is that progression to diabetes may be prevented by making some lifestyle changes.
What are the symptoms?
Not everyone experiences all the symptoms of diabetes, but there are some that are most common. They include: Frequent urination, extreme thirst and hunger, fatigue, slowed healing of cuts and bruises, tingling or numbness in hands or feet, and blurred vision.
Certain women who are at-risk for diabetes may develop the condition while pregnant as their body is not able to sustain blood sugar demand that occurs during the pregnancy - this is called Gestational Diabetes and it usually goes away after baby is born. These women however, will be at much higher risk of developing diabetes down the road.
How do I know if I have diabetes?
Your healthcare provider will monitor your fasting blood glucose levels at your annual check-up appointments. If your levels are higher than normal, you may be asked to have a second test in order to determine if you have diabetes.
Why is it important to manage diabetes?
Diabetes increases your risk for many serious health problems, including high blood pressure, neuropathy (pain in your feet and extremities), amputations, kidney disease, stroke, and vision complications. However, if your diabetes is managed well, with medication and lifestyle changes, you can delay and even eliminate these complications.
How can the VA help me?
VA is here to help Veterans enrolled in our healthcare system manage their diabetes to live a long and healthy life. If you have or are at risk for diabetes, we recommend that you:
- Receive regular preventive care with your Primary Care Team at any of our six clinic sites in Northampton, Fitchburg, Greenfield, Pittsfield, Springfield and Worcester. Your team will work with you to provide education and support in managing your diabetes.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle by managing your weight and staying physically active.
- Learn more about VA programs to help you stay healthy:
- MOVE weight management groups and TeleMOVE at home
- Diabetes Education and Self-Management Groups
- Back Boot Camp for those who find movement difficult due to chronic pain
- Telehealth to help you monitor your weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels at home
- If you have diabetes, you may be referred to the Diabetes Team for further treatment. This may be for one or more of the following reasons: If you are:
- a Veteran with prediabetes or new diabetes.
- a Veteran who wants to learn more about how to keep your blood sugars on track.
- starting insulin.
- finding that your blood sugars are high or variable.
- taking more than four injections daily.
- a Veteran with type 1 diabetes or use an insulin pump.
- a woman with risk factors for gestational diabetes who is thinking of getting pregnant.
We encourage you to attend all of your appointments and follow guidelines given to you by these clinicians, who may include the Endocrinologist (Diabetes Doctor), Nurse Educator, Dietitian and / or Clinical Pharmacist.
The above information was brought to you by the Diabetes Management Steering Committee:
Alice Abbott, MD
Izabela A. Collier Pharm. D., CDE:
Jacqueline Herring, NP
Patricia Lariviere, RD, LDN
Nicole Tan Kirchen, MD, MPH
Mark Schneider, PhD
Mary Rodowicz, MS, RD, LDN
For more information about Diabetes, you can also log on to the American Diabetes Association's website at http://www.diabetes.org.
- VA Central Western Massachusetts HCS
Hours of Operation
- M-F 8:00am - 4:30pm