Q. Should I go to an Urgent Care center for help with my diabetes and high blood pressure?
A. Diabetes is really a group of diseases involved with the ways your body metabolizes glucose (blood sugar). The chronic form of diabetes is classified as either Type 1 or Type 2. Prediabetes is a condition that is exactly what it sounds like—not quite diabetes, sugar levels are high but not quite full-on diabetes high. Symptoms of the disease include:
• Increased thirst
• Frequent urination
• Extreme hunger
• Unexplained weight loss
• Presence of ketones (a byproduct of muscle and fat breakdown when there’s not enough insulin) in the urine
• Blurred vision
• Slow-healing sores
• Frequent infections, such as gums, skin, vaginal, etc.
According to the CDC, around 34.2 million Americans (10% of the US population) have diabetes. Nearly 26.9 million adults and 100,000 children have been diagnosed, leaving 7.3 million (21.4% of cases) undiagnosed. Meanwhile, 88 million US adults (34.5% of the population), including 24.2 million people ages 65 and up, have prediabetes.
The Mayo Clinic suggests seeing your doctor if you suspect diabetes for yourself or a family member. If you have already been diagnosed, you will need close medical follow-up until blood sugar levels stabilize.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a much more common condition. About half of the adults in the US have it—that’s almost 108 million. About half of those (37 million US adults), have uncontrolled blood pressure of 140/90 or higher. Both diabetes and hypertension are chronic diseases (diseases that last more than a year and need ongoing medication and/or attention).
But is Urgent Care the answer? Not in most cases. Diabetes and hypertension, because they are chronic diseases, are best handled between the patient and their PCP (primary care physician). They rarely require a visit to Urgent Care.
However, hypertension can cause elevated blood pressure and symptoms like headache, neck or arm pain, confusion, flushed face, and pounding in chest. Call your primary physician if these occur. Or, if symptoms are severe (chest pain, stroke symptoms or speech problems) a trip to the ER is in order.
Diabetic urgencies, while also rare, can be more of an emergency. Diabetics are generally aware of their condition, know when their blood sugar is too low or too high, and can take steps to manage it. But life-threatening situations can occur. An extremely low blood sugar count can cause a patient to go into hypoglycemic shock and lose consciousness. The only option there is a call to 911. A high reading will cause symptoms of hunger, thirst, confusion, and lethargy. If it is over 300 to 500 notify your primary care physician and/or head for Urgent Care immediately.