Twenty-nine million people in the United States alone suffer from diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that stems from one of two things: insufficient amounts of the hormone insulin or the body’s inability to utilize it properly. There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 2 is much more common.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes occurs when a person’s immune system destroys pancreatic cells called beta cells. Because those cells are responsible for creating insulin, insulin must be injected on a regular basis to compensate. This form of diabetes is also known as “juvenile onset diabetes” because it is generally detected in children, teens and young adults.
Secondary diabetes is a similar condition where insulin is not adequately produced or not produced at all. It is not cause by the immune system dysfunction but instead it is a result of a disease or injury.
Diabetes mellitus is the medical name for type 2 diabetes. Ninety to ninety-five percent of all individuals with diabetes have this form of the disease which causes the body’s blood sugar to be too high due to a problem with insulin. Those who suffer from type 2 diabetes control their sugar by diet, insulin pills or insulin injections.
What is Insulin?
Insulin is actually a hormone. It is responsible for taking sugar out of foods and moving the sugar (glucose) to cells within the body. Glucose is needed in the cells to produce energy.
When the body doesn’t make enough insulin or does not utilize it properly, sugar is not removed from the blood which results in high blood sugar. High blood sugar can cause a large array of medical problems including dizziness, strokes, coma and even death.
Signs and Symptoms
The problem with signs and symptoms of diabetes is that oftentimes, there aren’t any, at least initially. Once the disease has reared its ugly head though, signs and symptoms may surface such as:
- Weight loss or gain
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Blurry vision
A glucose meter (also called a glucometer) is medical tool that is purposed to assess the approximate glucose concentration within the blood. Devices these days are much more accurate and comfortable than those in the past. There are many different types and brands and each come with their specific instructions. Doctors generally give instructions for using them as well.
Some points to ponder when using a glucose meter are:
- Always wash your hands before testing.
- Use alcohol wipes or swabs on the surface before pricking the skin.
- Pricking the side of your finger is generally less painful when testing on your fingers.
- Be sure to follow the instructions fully when inserting the test strip in the meter.
- Take note of all expiration dates.
- Document your results for easy reference.
- It is wise to consider the price of glucose test strips when deciding which meter to purchase.
Treatment for Diabetes
The goal of treating diabetes is to maintain a normal sugar level within the blood. It is imperative that it not be too low or too high. Diet and Exercise play a vital role in the management of diabetes.
Checking your blood sugar regularly with a glucose monitor helps you to know if your blood sugar is normal of if it is high or low. In the event that there is too much or too little sugar in the blood, extra measures must be taken. Sometimes diabetics need to inject or ingest insulin in order to maintain normal levels.
Other Related Health Issues
Diabetes gives way to a number of other health issues because it poses quite a strain on other parts of the body as they attempt to take up the slack. It is common for arteries and nerves suffer damage which gives way to even further medical issues. Heart disease and strokes are all too widespread among diabetics. As many as one third of all people with type 2 diabetes will come down with kidney damage during their lifetime. Those with diabetes are at four times the risk of having a stroke or heart disease. Diabetics are also prone to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, blindness and circulation issues that often result in amputations. Over half of all amputees have diabetes. The statistics are staggering but with proper maintenance, diabetes can be controlled and the related health issues can be kept at a minimum.
Warning Signs of Diabetes
If you are, or suspect you are, a diabetic, call for help if you experience:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Your breathing is labored or irregular
- Your breath smells fruity or strange
- You feel dizzy
- Your vision is distorted
- You feel exceptionally weak or tired
- You are excessively thirsty
- You urinate frequently
- You have a wound that won’t heal
Great Goals for Diabetics
Your doctor will work hand-in-hand with you to help you get a handle on your disease. Generally, a healthy blood sugar level ranges between 80 and 120 but this can vary from person to person.
A healthy diabetic diet is vital. Carbohydrates and sugar intake should be kept at a minimal. Protein and fat should be limited as well. Three well-balanced meals per day is recommended. Sometimes snacks are encouraged and other times they are not recommended at all. Your doctor can help you determine how your body does best.
Exercise is equally important. Maintaining your weight will be imperative as well. Avoiding stress is another big goal since stress greatly magnifies the strain placed on the body due to blood sugar problems and can actually wreak havoc on blood sugar itself. Smoking, drinking alcohol and drug abuse can aggravate blood sugar too.
Having diabetes is far from having a death sentence. With regular and diligent monitoring of your blood sugar levels and keeping your diet, exercise and lifestyle in check, it is very possible to have a happy, normal life with little inconveniences.