Right now diabetes affects more than 25 million Americans; a number that continues to grow every year. Diabetes is also the leading contributor to blindness, heart disease, and amputation in the United States. But it's not all doom and gloom.
It's been more than two decades since Dale Schempp first learned he was a diabetic.
"I just knew what the symptoms were and I could see that was it, but I didn't have a clue what it all entailed." Said Schempp.
Dale was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes, which means his body doesn't produce insulin on it's own. With Type Two the body thinks insulin is a pathogen and will attack it.
"It's what we call an insidious disease it sneaks up on you and before you know it you've got the complications." Said Dr. Richard Crawford, an endocrinologist with the Avera Medical Group Endocrinology and Diabetes.
Without insulin regulating your blood, it will eventually become toxic.
"Diabetes as of right now, other than an islet cell or pancreatic transplant there is no known cure for that and insulin continues to be the treatment for that type of diabetes." Said Dr. Crawford.
For many diabetics like Dale that means daily insulin injections.
"2 to 5 times a day was what it got to be. Always checking my blood sugar with the meter and making sure that I was eating correctly it's quite a lifestyle change but it's a manageable one." Said Schempp.
Dale has since traded in his needles for an insulin pump. This device looks like a pager and clips to his belt. From there it sends Dale insulin through a small catheter.
"Basically it gives you insulin 24 hours a day like your normal pancreas so it gives me a certain amount of units each hour and then when I eat, I have to count my carbs and enter my carbs to the pump and then it delivers the insulin for what the doctors have the settings for." Said Schempp.
A sensor in Dale's body also relays information to the pump every 5 minutes, taking one less task off his checklist. Pumps like this are proof that technology is starting to catch up with the disease. New pills and treatments are also helping manage diabetes but personal discipline is still the best medicine.
"It's truly a disease about prevention and it's about really being proactive taking care of yourself going in for regular medical visits with your physician and dietitians as well as coming up with a good exercise and diet program." Said Dr. Crawford.
Maintaining good health practices can reverse the effects of Type Two Diabetes as well as hold Type One in check. That's one reason dale makes sure he stays fit.
"There's always things that we can do better but I think we're heading in the right direction." Said Schempp.
One look at Dale and it's clear, diabetes is not a death sentence. He's taken control of his disease and is making sure he's ready for the next medical breakthrough.
"They are getting close to a cure and I think now my goal is to get to that cure with a good sound body and that will help!" Said Schempp.
Around 7 million Americans still don't know they are diabetic. Being overweight carries the biggest risk for the disease so regular checkups with your doctor can help prevent it from sneaking up on you. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.