Diabetes is a prevalent condition among veterans, with an estimated one in four veterans affected, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. However, many veterans may not even be aware that they have diabetes. Here’s a look at diabetes, its types, symptoms to watch out for, and steps for diagnosis and claiming benefits:
Understanding Diabetes Diabetes is a medical condition that hinders the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin effectively. This results in the improper processing of carbohydrates and elevated glucose levels in the body. Veterans are at a higher risk of developing diabetes due to factors like age and obesity. Shockingly, a quarter of all veterans are affected by diabetes, yet a significant number remain unaware of their condition.
Types of Diabetes
- Type 1 Diabetes: In Type 1 diabetes, the body fails to produce enough insulin. Even though the body breaks down ingested food into glucose, there’s insufficient insulin to transport this glucose from the bloodstream to the body’s cells.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes, also known as hyperglycemia, results in higher-than-normal blood sugar levels due to the body’s improper utilization of insulin. Initially, the pancreas produces excess insulin, but over time, it becomes incapable of producing an adequate amount.
Notably, Type 2 diabetes is associated with Agent Orange exposure. Veterans exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange are at a heightened risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and there’s no requirement for a direct service connection to qualify for benefits in such cases.
Gestational Diabetes Gestational diabetes typically occurs around the 24th week of pregnancy and necessitates close monitoring by a medical professional for the remaining weeks of pregnancy.
Recognizing Symptoms While not an exhaustive list, certain symptoms may indicate diabetes. These include:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Increased hunger even after eating
- Persistent fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing of cuts or bruises
- Unexplained weight loss
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands and feet
Early diagnosis is crucial for managing diabetes effectively. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical testing. It’s worth noting that not all types of diabetes exhibit obvious symptoms; for instance, gestational diabetes may be asymptomatic.
Diagnosis To determine whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, a C-Peptide test is necessary. This test assesses insulin production and quantity. The results will dictate the type of diabetes you have.
Filing Your Claim The VA includes Type 2 diabetes resulting from herbicide exposure in its list of approved conditions for veteran benefits. To qualify, ensure you have:
- A diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes
- Participated in an Agent Orange Exam
- Collected evidence linking your service records to herbicide exposure
Preventing Veteran Diabetes Preventing diabetes involves adopting a few key lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise, moderating carbohydrate consumption, and spacing out meals. Additionally, reducing high-fat and processed food intake can help lower the risk of diabetes.