Health care providers estimate that 26 million Americans have diabetes, and that the number of diagnosed individuals is on the rise. But they say public awareness of diabetes is also growing.

"There are more people being detected ... but there are also more people being open about their condition," says Linda Parker, a nurse and diabetes counselor for Southern Arizona's Carondolet Health Network.

Parker says many people find out they're diabetic when their doctor runs a routine blood sugar test, and that catching the disease early is crucial.

“We recommend that anyone over the age of 45, with risk factors such as your culture being African-American, Native American, Hispanic … people that have family that have diabetes, they need to get screened early,” Parker says.

For Mike Pavelka, a regular checkup put him on the road to managing his diabetes.

"I got new medical insurance and decided to go in for a physical," he says. That's when he learned he had diabetes and would need to treat the disease. "I was on medication ... but now I manage it with eating right."

Parker says some forms of diabetes, like Pavelka's, can be controlled by diet and lifestyle changes and require no medication. She also points out that is not true for everyone.