A Carson-Tahoe Hospital program designed to help empower diabetics to manage their own disease is now one of four in the state certified by the American Diabetes Association.
"We had 135 patients go through the program last year," said Alicia Hanson, Carson-Tahoe's diabetes education coordinator.
Hanson said the role of the patient is critical in the day-to-day treatment of diabetes.
"If we can keep the blood sugar at normal levels, we can minimize complications by 60 percent," she said. "We now have a program that meets national standards for education. It's something the public can rely on."
The $500 fee includes a two-day program with 13 hours of instruction, a consultation and blood check at three months, and two phone check-ups at six and 12 months.
Certification by the American Diabetes Association means the program meets national standards for education, and qualifies patients for Medicare reimbursement. Hanson said patients could end up paying about $120 for the course.
There are about 54,000 diabetics in the four-county area including Carson City served by the hospital.
The course, which is conducted once a month, is geared to people ages 50 and over.
About half of the people Hanson sees in private consultations are between the ages of 30 and 50, and she hopes to conduct sessions for them in the future.
Hanson said diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in this country. The number of cases has skyrocketed nationally 33 percent from 1990 to 1998, and 400 die daily from its complications.
Family history can be important, but many of the factors are a matter of lifestyle: lack of exercise, fast-food diet, alcohol, cigarette smoking, and stress all increase one's likelihood of acquiring the disease.
"Obesity is the main risk factor, and 52 percent of Americans are overweight," Hanson said.
The chronic disorder affects the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. It's characterized either by a deficiency of or a resistance to insulin, a hormone that regulates the metabolism of glucose and other nutrients. Type I diabetes is characterized by a deficiency of insulin. Those with type II have bodies that resist the use of insulin. Most commonly, the end result is an abnormal increase in blood sugar levels.
Plaque in the blood vessels from high cholesterol and triglyceride levels clog circulation and ultimately lead to a number of seriously debilitating and potentially fatal conditions.
-- Heart disease is the number one killer of diabetics, due primarily to the increase in blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
-- There is also an increase in the number of amputations among diabetics. The decrease in circulation affects the body's ability to fight infection. Antibiotics are of limited value, and often the affected limb must be amputated.
-- Blood vessel damage can also cause retinal detachment or an increase in intraocular pressure, leading to blindness.
-- Kidney damage results from the increase in proteins in the blood. These proteins clog and damage the glomeruli of the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. The hospital's diabetic education program includes a two-day session covering 15 topics, as well as a follow-up consultation in three months, and phone checks at six months and one year.
Those interested in taking the course or a private consultation can call Hanson at 885-4506.