September 22, 2017

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Living with Diabetes

Diabetes

Imagine a world with no insulin; how would people with diabetes cope with their chronic illness?  All of that changed when in 1922, Frederick Banting and his team discovered insulin in Ontario, Canada. Each year, November 14 is celebrated and is known as World Diabetes Day as we remember the birthday of Dr. Banting and reflect on what the state of those suffering with diabetes was like before that day.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that develops because of a resistance to insulin or an inadequate amount of insulin in the body that causes the glucose level in your blood to become too high.

Why do our bodies need insulin?

Insulin is like a key that allows glucose to enter the body cells where it is converted to useable energy for our bodies.

Types of Diabetes

There are two different kinds of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.  Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where your body does not make the insulin needs to make your body function.  Type 1 is typically diagnosed below the age of 30.  When you have Type 1 Diabetes, you will need to take insulin every day to prevent serious complications and death.

Type 2 Diabetes is a disease of insulin resistance.  Your body is making insulin, but it is not working properly, so the glucose doesn’t get into your cells.  Over time your body produces less and less insulin so your blood sugar starts to rise gradually.  Most people that have Type 2 Diabetes will need to take an oral tablet to help their bodies function properly and around 50% of people will need to take insulin after having diabetes for about 10 years.  Medication isn’t always needed right away because your body is working to make insulin, it just isn’t very efficient.  A modified carbohydrate meal plan, exercise and weight management are key strategies to controlling diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms

Diabetes can sometimes be difficult to diagnose because people don’t always have symptoms.  Some of the common symptoms are fatigue (but you can be tired from many things), blurry vision, a sore throat that doesn’t go away, a small cut that doesn’t heal well, dry itchy skin, recurring infections, numbness or tingling of the legs or feet.  Symptoms typical to Type 1 Diabetes are frequent urination, excessive thirst; being hungry all the time and unexplained weight loss.

Monitoring Diabetes

It is very important to monitor your blood sugar if you have diabetes.  People with Type 1 Diabetes will need to monitor their blood sugar 4-6 times a day and those with Type 2 diabetes 2-3 times a day. There are different types of blood glucose meters, but in general they require a small prick of blood that is used to measure the levels.

Low Blood Sugar

Do you ever wonder how you could help someone if they were having a low blood sugar?   What would you do?  How would you react?  What would you look for?  Someone that is having a low blood sugar levels may become weak and shaky, confused, hungry,  sweaty and clammy, weak and light headed.  The lower the blood sugar is,  the more significant the symptoms will be.

If you are with someone that is having signs and symptoms of a low blood sugar you can start by helping them test their blood sugar level.  If you don’t know how to do that you can just go ahead and treat them like they have blood sugar and can offer them a half a cup of juice,  half a cup of soda, 1 cup milk; 3-4 glucose tablets or 2-3 small candies.  If the symptoms resolve they should retest their blood sugar in 15 minutes. If they continue to exhibit signs and symptoms of a low blood sugar you should seek medical attention immediately and call 911.

Untreated Diabetes

Diabetes should not be ignored and if left untreated, diabetes will damage the small blood vessels found in places such as your eyes and kidneys.  It can slow the circulation to your feet and can damage the nerves causing a decreased sensation.  Infections of the feet are common because the blood supply isn’t good and can be difficult to heal.  It can also cause problems as you try to empty your bladder, digest your food and can cause sexual dysfunction.  Larger vessel problems caused by diabetes include heart attack, stroke and atherosclerosis – a building of plaque in the blood vessels.  It is also important to take care of your teeth and gums because a higher level of glucose in your body can cause bacteria in your mouth to multiply so there is an increased risk of gum disease.

Tamera Hein, Clinical Diabetes Educator

Tamara Hein, Certified Diabetes Educator, Nutrition Counselor, ACMC-Willmar

It is important to maintain a healthy weight because being overweight can make your body more resistant to insulin.  Research has shown that if you can lose 10-15 pounds and get 150 minutes of exercise each week you can reduce the risk of diabetes developing by 50%!

Diabetes is chronic disease but it can be managed effectively with lifestyle and medications if prescribed.  If you think you might have diabetes or want more information about preventing diabetes, contact the Willmar Diabetes Center or talk to your healthcare provider.

Do you have questions about diabetes?  Let us know, please comment below, we’d love to hear from you!