Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as just “diabetes”, is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels. This elevation of the glucose levels can result from either the body’s lack of insulin production or from defects in the body's ability to use insulin.
The more common is type 2 diabetes which affects millions of Americans. This form of diabetes usually affects adults (but due to the obesity epidemic is also now affecting children) and is more common in groups such as African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. In type 2 diabetes, the body does not effectively utilize the insulin that was produced by the body and eventually will not produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels. Patients with type 2 diabetes can try various treatments for their diabetes, including lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) oral medications and various injectable therapies, including insulin. If diabetes is not adequately controlled it can lead to significant cardiovascular complications.
Gestational diabetes is yet another type of diabetes, where, during pregnancy women develop elevated glucose readings due to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Having gestational diabetes doesn't mean that you had diabetes before you conceived, or that you will have diabetes after giving birth, however the risk for the development of type 2 diabetes is quite high. It is very important that you maintain excellent glucose control throughout the pregnancy as complications can develop with uncontrolled gestational diabetes.
Signs & Symptoms of Diabetes
- Increased thirst & urination When you have diabetes, excess sugar (glucose) builds up in your blood. Your kidneys are forced to work overtime to filter and absorb the excess sugar. If your kidneys can't keep up, the excess sugar is excreted into your urine along with fluids drawn from your tissues. This triggers more frequent urination, which may leave you dehydrated. As you drink more fluids to quench your thirst, you'll urinate even more.
- You may feel fatigued. Many factors can contribute to this. They include dehydration from increased urination and your body's inability to function properly, since it's less able to use sugar for energy needs.
- Weight fluctuations also fall under the umbrella of possible diabetes signs and symptoms. When you lose sugar through frequent urination, you also lose calories. At the same time, diabetes may keep the sugar from your food from reaching your cells — leading to constant hunger. The combined effect is potentially rapid weight loss, especially if you have type 1 diabetes.
How do I treat hypoglycemia?
The quickest way to raise your blood glucose and treat hypoglycemia is with some form of sugar. Many people with diabetes like to carry glucose tablets. You can get glucose tablets at any drugstore and at many other stores as well.
Other sources of sugar or simple carbohydrates also work well to treat hypoglycemia, such as fruit juice, hard candies, or pretzels or crackers. The important thing is to get at least 15-20 grams of sugars or carbohydrates. A food's nutrition label can tell you how much you need to eat of that food to get enough to treat an episode of hypoglycemia. To treat hypoglycemia you should stick with something that is mostly sugar or carbohydrates. Foods that have a lot of fat as well as sugars and carbohydrates, such as chocolate or cookies, do not work as quickly to raise blood glucose levels.
- Nutrition - Living with diabetes doesn't have to mean feeling deprived or restricted. We'll help you learn what you can eat (which is just about anything), how much of it you can consume, and how often you can enjoy it. Once you get the hang of eating a healthy diet, you can relax and dig in to a wide variety of delicious meals and snacks. Learn More about Our Physician-Supervised, Non-Pharmacological Nutrition Program
- Physical Activity -Physical activity is an important part of controlling diabetes and preventing complications such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Medications -If you have type 2 diabetes, sometimes eating healthy and engaging in physical activity is not enough. Your doctor may give you oral medication to help control your blood glucose levels. For people with type 1 diabetes (and some people with type 2 diabetes) this means taking insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin to control diabetes--and this can only be done through multiple injections or by an insulin pump, a small device that delivers insulin continuously throughout the day.
Blood glucose (blood sugar) is what is measured to diagnose diabetes and ensure that the overall control during any treatment is adequate. Checking glucose readings by a doctor will help in the diagnosis and control through routine blood work. However, once diagnosed with diabetes, checking your glucose readings at home with a glucometer, will assist in the management of diabetes. Every patient with diabetes can benefit from checking their blood glucose with a glucometer. The frequency of testing will vary by patient and by the medication regimen that they are on. It is important that you keep a log of your results and review them with your team to gauge how well your diabetes plan is working. These values are important not only for your team, but for yourself to give you a better understanding about how your dietary habits, lifestyle changes, exercise or illnesses can affect your glucose levels.
You can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes through a healthy lifestyle. Change your diet, increase your level of physical activity, maintain a healthy weight...with these positive steps, you can stay healthier longer and reduce your risk of diabetes/
- Diabetes symptoms sometimes involve your vision. High levels of blood sugar pull fluid from your tissues, including the lenses of your eyes. This affects your ability to focus.
- Left untreated, diabetes can cause new blood vessels to form in your retina — the back part of your eye — as well as damage established vessels. For most people, these early changes do not cause vision problems. However, if these changes progress undetected, they can lead to vision loss and blindness.
Checking Glucose Readings
- Taking insulin or diabetes pills
- On intensive insulin therapy
- Having a hard time controlling your blood glucose levels
- Having severe low blood glucose levels or ketones from high blood glucose levels
- Having low blood glucose levels without the usual warning signs
The American Diabetes Association recommends blood glucose checks if you have diabetes and are:
When glucose levels fall below 60 mg/dl this is known as hypoglycemia or what other people commonly refer to as “insulin reaction”. This can occur at any time during the management of diabetes, but does occur more frequently with some medications, especially insulin therapy. It is important that you recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia and have the proper way to treat a reaction. Checking glucose levels frequently will assist you in determining when your level is low or even going low. Therefore, it is important that you check your blood whenever you feel low blood glucose coming on.
Checking Glucose Readings
- Clumsy or jerky movements
- Tingling sensations around the mouth
- Difficulty paying attention, or confusion
- Sudden moodiness or behavior changes, such as crying for no apparent reason
A1C Test & Value
This is a test that every patient with diabetes must remember. This is how your overall diabetes and glucose control are measured. It measures a person's average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months. While it is important to have this measured regularly, it does not replace daily self-testing of blood glucose. This test enables your physician to confirm your at-home self-testing results or blood test results by the doctor. It also helps to determine whether a treatment plan is working or changes need to be implemented.