With over 30 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes, we all know someone living with the disease. For me, it’s my mother and a younger cousin. My mother was diagnosed with Type 2 when she was in her mid-50s. My cousin was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was eight or nine. The first signs for both of my family members? Lethargy, the constant need to urinate, and extreme thirst. My mother has adjusted and manages her disease well; she’s now the grandmother of eight and doesn’t let her disease slow her down. My cousin, now a woman in her mid 20s, was a young child when she was diagnosed and had to adjust to giving herself daily blood tests, and learn to deal with the discomfort—physical and social—of wearing an external constant glucose monitor. No matter your age or the type of diabetes you might have, the diagnosis always comes with a period of adjustment, but it also comes with a significant cost.
There’s no way around it—the cost of diabetes is staggering. And it’s a problem on many fronts. The financial realities of treating diabetes and diabetes-related diseases can add up. According to the American Diabetes Association, health care costs for individuals with diabetes can run 2.3 times higher than for a person without diabetes and average nearly $17,000 in annual medical expenses. And it’s not just the individual patients impacted by the costs. Diagnosed diabetes costs America $327 billion per year—up 26% in a five-year period—including $237 billion in direct medical costs and $90 billion in reduced productivity.
With approximately 4,000 Americans being diagnosed daily with diabetes and 84 million with “prediabetes,” these costs are just going to keep going up.
The good news is that there are effective medications to help manage diabetes and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. There are also companies like Simplefill whose mission is to help their members afford their treatment.
Understanding The Two Types of Diabetes
Both types of diabetes are chronic diseases that affect the way a body regulates glucose or blood sugar. Glucose fuels our bodies cells but needs insulin to work. People with Type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. People with Type 2 diabetes either don’t make enough insulin or don’t respond to insulin as well as they should. Both types of diabetes may lead to chronically high blood sugar levels and can lead to many ancillary diabetes complications.
Understanding What Is At Risk
Hypoglycemia: Since diabetes is essentially a condition that makes it hard to regulate blood sugar levels, people with diabetes often experience hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels. Skipping a meal or taking too much insulin can lead to hypoglycemia. Symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision, shaking, rapid heartbeat, and headache.
Ketoacidosis: Ketoacidosis is a condition that results from the body’s inability to use glucose due to lack of insulin. When cells are starved for energy, the body begins to break down fat and, when this persists, ketone bodies—potentially toxic acids that are byproducts of fat breakdown—build up in the body. Symptoms include dehydration, abdominal pain, and breathing problems.
Diabetic Kidney Disease: Chronic high blood sugar levels can damage the kidney’s ability to flush waste from the body. It can also cause protein and other substances not filtered through urine to be released. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease and if kidney disease isn’t treated, it will lead for the need for dialysis. A year of dialysis can cost between $53,000 to $80,000.
Eye Problems: Since diabetes can damage the vessels in the eyes, people with diabetes might develop:
- Cataracts: People with diabetes are 2 to 5 times more likely to develop cataracts than people without diabetes. Cataracts cause the eyes lens to cloud and can be treated Mild cataracts can be treated with sunglasses and glare-control lenses. Severe cataracts may be treated with a lens implant.
- Glaucoma: People with diabetes are 2 times as likely to develop glaucoma, a condition that results from pressure building up in the eye and restricting blood flow to the retina and optic nerve. Glaucoma causes gradual loss of eyesight.
- Diabetic retinopathy: This is a catch-all phrase that describes any problems of the retina caused by diabetes. The early stages are defined by the capillaries in the back of the eye being enlarged and forming pouches. The ensuing swelling and bleeding can distort vision. In advanced forms of diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels of the retina are so damaged that they close off and force new blood vessels to form. These new vessels are weak and bleed. This stage of retinopathy can lead to vision loss.
- Macular Endema: Caused by diabetic retinopathy, macular endema is the result of fluid leaking into macula (the area of the eye that enables us to recognize faces and read). Left untreated, macular endema can lead to vision loss. Treated promptly, the condition can be mitigated.
Neuropathy: Chronic high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves in the body including the nerves that control automatic processes like digestion as well as nerves in the extremities (feet, hands, etc). Symptoms of neuropathy include: tingling, numbness, pain, and burning sensations.
Foot Problems: People with diabetes are more likely to have foot issues because of the nerve and blood vessel damage which leads to limited blood flow to the extremities. Small sores or breaks in the skin may turn into deep skin ulcers, which, if left untended, can grow larger and deeper. Gangrene and amputation of the foot may be necessary. In fact, each day, 295 Americans will undergo a diabetes-related amputation.
These are the physical risks that diabetics need to be aware of. However, Americans with diabetes also need to be prepared for all of the financial hardships that can occur from a lifetime disease.
How To Prepare For Diabetes, Financially
Manage your finances well: Cut down on unnecessary expenses, especially when it comes to items that impact your health. One tip would be cutting down excess junk food and sugar. It has been revealed that consuming even two sugary drinks per week could increase your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. By cutting down on such unhealthy dietary habits, you improve your health and also save money.
Buy health insurance: While you may not have health issues right now, it does not mean you should not add a layer of protection. Diabetes is an expensive disease. In order to stay healthy, you could need regular medicinal supplies such as insulin, oral tablets and test strips. You will also need to get periodic check-ups at the hospital. All of this can cost a lot of money. Health insurance is the best way to ensure that these expenses do not dent your savings account.
Create an emergency fund: Save, save and save more! The one guarantee in life is that you will have ups and downs. You never know when you will face a hardship and often times it comes with a price tag.
Contact companies that are built around helping patients: Simplefill works with many diabetes patients and can help you navigate the costs of insulin and other medications needed for the diabetes related complications. Our representatives are available to help you find a low-cost plan for your diabetes medications. Apply now or call us at 1-877-386-0206 Ext. 1.