Of the Baker City Herald

Five million Americans including more than 60,000 Oregonians have diabetes and dont know it.

But thanks to a screening program performed this week by Karen Cloudt and Helen Sargent, eight more area residents can take themselves off the list.

Cloudt, a registered nurse who does education services in the offices of several Baker City physicians, and Sargent, an RN and the infection control officer and diabetes educator at St. Elizabeth Health Services, spent their day Tuesday screening the public for possible signs of diabetes.

Between them, the nurses saw more than 170 people. Eight tested positive for elevated blood sugar levels, a possible indicator of diabetes. They were advised to immediately see their doctor, Sargent said.

Im not a doctor, and I cant diagnose diabetes, she said. But we told them how important it was to see their doctor just as soon as they can.

Setting up temporary shop at the Safeway Pharmacy and at the senior center, Cloudt and Sargent pricked fingers, listened and offered advice to the dozens of area residents who availed themselves of the free service.

I must have seen 25 people the first two hours hours we were open, Cloudt said. This is just a screening, to let people know what their blood sugar is. If its too high, we recommend that people see their doctors.

One woman said she was already being treated for diabetes, but didnt know how to contact Medicare to pay for the testing strips that diabetes patients need to chart their blood sugar. Cloudt had some extra, and also assisted her with advice how to complete the Medicare paperwork.

The Baker City hospital also stands by ready to help. A diabetes self-management class is set to begin Tuesday and Thursday evenings beginning April 3 and running through April 19. Cost is $180, and most insurance policies will pick up tuition for the class. The hospital will offer a number of scholarships, Sargent said.

Instructors will include a physical therapist, social worker, Sargent, and a pharmacist. For more information or to register for the class, call Sargent at 523-8143.

Diabetes is caused by the bodys failure to make enough insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the most common, there is some insulin, but less and less over time or, in other cases, the insulin present doesnt work as well as it should.

Insulin is what helps glucose move from the blood into the bodys cells. When it doesnt work properly, or when its present in insufficient levels, elevated levels of sugar in the blood begin to pile up.

Over time, this build-up of blood sugar can cause blindness, heart problems, loss of a foot or leg, kidney failure even death.

Diabetes is a silent disease, the American Diabetes Association says. By the time it is diagnosed, damage to arteries, eyes, nerves, and kidneys has been going on for seven to 10 years.

Telltale symptoms include extreme thirst, frequent urination and unexplained weight loss.

People in the high risk category for diabetes include those 45 years or older; African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, American Indians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; overweight people; those with blood pressure at or above 140/90; those with a family history of diabetes; and women who gave birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds at birth.

People can feel good, but still have diabetes. There is no cure, but it can be controlled. To reduce the risk of getting diabetes, the ADA recommends maintaining a healthy body weight, eating low-fat foods, and getting regular exercise.

Since 1991, the diabetes death rate in Oregon has climbed steadily, rising from about 18 deaths per 100,000 population in 1991 to 25.2 deaths in 1998, the last year for which statistics were available. It is the seventh leading cause of death among Oregonians.

About 115,000 state residents have been diagnosed with diabetes, and about 64,000 remain undiagnosed, the ADA estimated. The number of people with diabetes increased almost 25 percent between 1991 and 1998.

The strongest risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes is obesity, and Oregonians are rapidly becoming more obese, the ADA said. Twelve percent of the states residents were obese in 1993. That number had risen to 18 percent by 1998, a 50 percent increase.

The full effect of this continuing obesity epidemic on the prevalence of diabetes may not be seen for years, because of the delay between the development of obesity and the onset of diabetes, the ADA said. Thus, we expect the prevalence of diabetes to increase even more in the future.