HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - There are more people in Mississippi living with diabetes than any other state in the country and doctors say that number is growing.
"What we see is they are not expecting it," said Linda Gwaltney, Director of the Diabetes Education Program at the Hattiesburg Clinic. "They go to the doctor for something else and the doctor walks in and says 'do you know you have type 2 diabetes?' It's often a reaction of surprise, maybe dismay, maybe disbelief."
Gwaltney leads the Diabetes Care program at the Hattiesburg Clinic.
"Diabetes is not the responsibility truly of the physician or healthcare provider just to control it for the patient," said Gwaltney. "The patient has to take active control. It's a disease that's chronic, which means it's not going away, so a patient with diabetes has to self manage it."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 million people in the United States are living with diabetes. The Mississippi Department of Health reports there were over 333,026 adult Mississippians living with diabetes in 2015.
"The earlier that a person is diagnosed, the earlier they are aware and do something about it, the more likely they are to head off complications," said Gwaltney.
According to the Mississippi Department of Health, diabetes accounted for 1,091 deaths in Mississippi in 2015. In addition, many more Mississippians live with the complications of type 2 diabetes, including lower extremity amputations, end stage renal disease, blindness, loss of protective sensation, heart disease and premature death.
"The care for diabetes, simply put, is basically healthy eating, healthy moving, physical activity, as well as needed, medications," Gwantley said. "To keep that in balance, the person will has to understand and understand it pretty well."
The Clinic's Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME), accredited by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, provides diabetes education and support to help patients with type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes gain knowledge and experience to manage their diabetes, reduce risk for complications and enhance their quality of life.
Patients do need to be referred to the program by a physician or mid-level provider prior to starting classes or attending a private consultation for diabetes education. For more information, click here.