Diabetes CareDiabetes put simply is a condition where the body is unable, or has lost the ability to control it’s blood sugar levels- usually resulting in higher numbers than usual. There are two main types:
Also known as being “insulin dependant” and usually occurs in younger children.
Also known as “non-insulin dependant” normally affects those above 35 and tend to be overweight.
Diabetes is usually considered to be a life-long condition, however certain groups of people are known to suffer from diabetes temporarily during pregnancy (Pregnancy diabetes) where the symptoms tend to disappear after child-birth.
Secondary diabetes is where diabetes is a result of another condition (pancreatic inflammation) or other medication (steroid treatment).
The body’s sugar levels, also known as glucose levels, are controlled by a hormone produced by the pancreas called Insulin. Insulin acts to reduce glucose levels in the body. Type 1 diabetes is where the pancreas produces no or little insulin and Type 2 diabetes is where the insulin is released, but is insufficient or ineffective for the bodies needs. Pregnancy diabetes is brought about due to hormonal changes that normally occur during pregnancy.
Secondary diabetes is uncertain, and is dependant on the root cause. Some causes include damaged pancreas for example because of alcohol intake. Some medicines can impair insulin secretion by damaging the pancreas, examples include diuretics and steroids.
Without sufficient amounts of insulin in the body, the blood glucose levels will rise- causing glucose to be excreted from the body via urine. This can cause symptoms such as:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Weight loss
- Itchiness, especially around the genitals
- Slow healing cuts, bruises, wounds
- Blurred vision
Blood glucose levels are measured in two ways:
- Random glucose test: Blood glucose levels are measured at random on two occasions. Any readings taken above 11.1 mmol/ml is taken to be a diagnosis of diabetes.
- Fasting glucose test: Blood glucose level is measured following an over-night fast, on two separate days. Any readings taken above 7 mmol/ml is taken to be a diagnosis of diabetes.
Whatever medication needed to treat the varying severities of diabetes, a combination of healthy diet and exercise must be pursued by all who have had diabetes diagnosed.
Insulin injections are used to increase the insulin levels in the body, which in turn should reduce the blood glucose levels. The injections may have to be used alongside oral medication to effectively reduce blood glucose levels.
There are lots of types of oral diabetic medicines, but generally their action involves:
- Increasing the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas
- Increase the action insulin exerts on the body
- Delay the glucose absorption from the digestive system
- Suppressing hormones, which prevent insulin from working
Monitoring your blood glucose levels is an essential component of diabetes treatment. Dependent upon the reading/ blood glucose level, you may need to alter you medicines regimen. Over the long term, your diabetes must be monitored routinely (at least once a year) by your GP or diabetic nurse, who will assess your blood sugar control and keep an eye out for any signs of long term complications.
- Lack of insulin can cause a life threatening condition called Diabetic acidosis. The lack of insulin causes rise in blood sugar levels, ketone presence in blood and urine, and keto acids present in blood.
- High levels of insulin (may be caused by diabetes medication), will create lowering of blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).
- Retinopathy: A disease of the eye that may lead to blindness.
- Diabetic kidney disease: can lead to kidney failure.
- Diabetic neuropathy: A disease of the nerves which can lead to foot ulcers and infections.
The complication with possibly the greatest implications on quality and length of life is the risk of diabetics developing heart conditions. Some factors which must be controlled to prevent such conditions from developing are:
- Blood pressure
- Smoking habits
- Blood cholesterol levels