Diabetes is a condition which results when a person’s body doesn’t make any insulin, or enough insulin, or doesn’t use insulin the right way. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas gland that helps your cells use blood sugar for energy. When insulin is in short supply, the glucose (sugar) in the blood can become dangerously high. That’s why someone who is diabetic may have to take insulin by injection, or pills by mouth to help the body secrete more of its own insulin or make better use of the insulin it does secrete. Some diabetics, however, require no medication. All persons with diabetes must follow a controlled diet and exercise regularly to prevent their blood sugar from getting too high.

There are two (2) forms of diabetes:

Type 1 – (sometimes called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile diabetes) is more severe and usually shows up before the age of 30 (but may occur at any age). Insulin injections are essential as well as dietary control and exercise.

Type 2 – (sometimes called non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes) is less severe, usually affecting persons who are forty (40) years of age or older and overweight. This type is most often treated with diet and exercise and sometimes oral medicine. Occasional insulin injections may be required as well.

Diabetes can contribute to hardening of the arteries, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, and gangrene.

Signs and Symptoms

The American Diabetes Association uses the acronyms DIABETES and CAUTION to help identify the warning signs of diabetes.

  • Drowsiness.
  • Itching.
  • A family history of diabetes.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Excessive weight.
  • Tingling, numbness, or pain in extremities.
  • Easy fatigue.
  • Skin infection, slow healing of cuts and scratches, especially on the feet.

Other signs are:

  • Constant urination.
  • Abnormal thirst.
  • Unusual hunger.
  • The rapid loss of weight.
  • Irritability.
  • Obvious weakness and fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

You don’t necessarily have to experience all of these warning signs to be diabetic; only one or two may be present. Some people show no warning signs whatsoever and find out they’re diabetic after a routine blood test. If you have a family history of diabetes, you should be especially watchful of the signs and symptoms above. If you notice any of these signs, report them to your doctor. Being overweight increases your risk significantly. A diet high in sugar and low in fiber may increase your risk if you are prone to developing diabetes. Pregnancy can trigger diabetes in some women.

Treatment and Care

Treatment for diabetes will depend on the type and severity of the disorder. Both forms, however, require a treatment plan that maintains normal, steady blood sugar levels. This can be accomplished by:

  • Proper dietary measures that give prescribed amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, are set up in regular meals adequate in intake of dietary fiber, and promote weight reduction, if necessary.
  • Exercise.
  • Medicine: Oral hypoglycemic agents, pills, or insulin injections, if necessary.

With either type of diabetes, routine care and follow up treatment is important. Careful control of blood sugar levels can allow a person with diabetes to lead a normal, productive life. Persons who are genetically predisposed to diabetes should watch their weight, control their eating habits, and exercise regularly to reduce their risk of getting the disease.

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

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