HEALTH WATCH: Endocrinology

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Before Fairbanks' got its first endocrinologist, patients who required a specialist had to travel to Anchorage, or even the lower 48 for treatment.
In this week's health report, we talked to Dr. Mohammad Ahmed about what endocrinology is, and how he works to improve the lives of local Fairbanksans.

Dr. Ahmed describes endocrinology as a way of communication in the body. The nervous system is fast acting communication system but he's talking about a slower process involving chemicals...

Dr. Muhammad Ahmed; Endocrinologist >> "These chemicals are called hormones. They're produced by glands in the body. There are some famous glands like thyroid, pancreas, ovaries, testicles, etcetera. But as an endocrinologist, we believe all internal organs of the body are endocrine organs."

These glands relate to your metabolism, the biochemical processes that make your body work and how your body changes food into energy. Endocrinologists often see patients with diabetes.

MA >> "In diabetes, you are not helpless. You can do a lot to manage this disease on your own without the help of your provider."

So they're not only providers and prescribers but they're educators.
Heather helps people to prevent or manage diabetes.

Heather Powers; Dietician & Diabetes Educator >> "We're looking at diet strategies, and so looking at the sugar contents in different food. And beverages are a big source of sugar in the diet for many people. So that's one area of education we'll focus on."

She also talks about weight management through nutrition and exercise and insulin shots versus pumps.

HP >> "So it's not one recipe for everybody."

But how do you know if you have diabetes? Sometimes there's symptoms, sometimes there's not.

HP >> "Even folks will go see and eye doctor and the eye doctor will inform them that they need to come see the doctor because something else could be going on. In either case, there are a few different lab tests that can be done to determine if somebody has diabetes or if they're maybe pre-diabetes."

When insulin isn't working properly, glucose cannot be utilized as a fuel. So glucose can clog arteries and have trouble moving from the blood into the cells.

MA >> "So they body tries to get rid of it by excreting glucose. So whenever glucose gets excreted it carries with it extra water molecules with it."

This can cause dehydration, thirst and excessive trips to the bathroom and that causes...

MA >> "Polyphagia, so patients get hungry, start eating more and more, which in turn causes blood sugars to turn higher and higher. So it becomes a very vicious cycle."

This can cause toxic glucose levels. So they work to clean up the system and improve a patient's quality of health. I'm Katie Luper, reporting.