ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- “This is a huge problem, a Texas sized problem,” said Dr. Barath Rangaswamy, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Texas Tech Physicians. He’s speaking out about a growing issue in the Basin, diabetes, and trying to raise awareness as part of Diabetes Awareness Month. 

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 2,758,942 people in Texas have been diagnosed with diabetes, about 12.3% of the adult population. An additional 621,000 people in Texas have diabetes but don’t know it, greatly increasing their health risk. Experts say there are also more than seven million adults in Texas with prediabetes, or blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. 

It’s an expensive disease, generating billions in health care costs each year in Texas alone and also a deadly one. Now, local doctors are trying to raise awareness and inspire people across the Basin to get healthy. 

“We want diabetes under control, so we (tell patients) to watch the diet, exercise. 70% of the time, diet and exercise help a lot in controlling the sugars. And of course, you get the help from your primary provider to make sure you get screened…and that proper medications are added. Once you are diagnosed, the idea of treatment is to prevent any damages- eye damages, kidney damages, stroke, amputation, heart attacks,” said Dr. Varuna Nargunan, Medical Center Hospital.

Some symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, frequent urination, blurry eyesight, and even nausea and vomiting. Risks for those living with the disease untreated can be deadly.

“An estimate around 38 million people in America are living with diabetes and around 98 million are living with pre-diabetes, and 80% don’t even know it. Pre-diabetes is the precursor of diabetes, so if it’s not taken care of, it is going to progress to diabetes in the next five years. 

Risk factors to be on the lookout for include weight gain, an inactive lifestyle, poor nutrition, and even family history. If you are at risk for pre-diabetes, or have recently been diagnosed, there are some steps you can take to keep things from progressing. Dr. Rangaswamy said changing your diet by cutting out processes foods and sticking to leaner meats, as well being more active, like going for a 30 minute walk each day, can help.

If you want to know of you are at risk for developing diabetes, head to this website for a short survey to learn more.