Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that can have a major impact on quality of life, and result in long-term consequences. Luckily, it can be treated and its complications can be managed with with proper management. Keep reading to know more on the types of diabetes, causes, symptoms, treatment and how to live a healthy productive life with this condition.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a group of metabolic disorders characterized by high blood glucose. Glucose is the body’s primary source of energy and is regulated by insulin, a pancreatic hormone, that helps the body use the digested glucose. The body’s inability to make or utilize insulin will lead to glucose build-up and trigger high blood sugar and other health problems.
Types of Diabetes and Causes
There are several types of diabetes, distinguished by their unique causes. See the most common types below and learn how to avoid them.
This autoimmune disorder is caused by the inability to make insulin. Commonly known as juvenile diabetes, the condition affects children and young adults, and it is usually unpreventable.
Insulin-dependent diabetes is hereditary, but other factors like environment and geographical location can increase the risk.
Diabetes mellitus is a lifestyle condition affecting middle-aged people and seniors. It is caused by the decreased ability of the body to use insulin due to increased fat levels.
Factors like obesity and overweight, sedentary lifestyle, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and gestational diabetes can increase the risk of diabetes type 2. I nsulin supplementation is not required in the early stages, but as the disease progresses, you may need the medication to control blood sugar.
Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women, and it usually disappears when the baby is born. Without proper management, the condition can advance to type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes or borderline diabetes is the early warning sign of diabetes, and it occurs when the blood glucose is high but not too high to be classified as diabetes mellitus.
Prediabetes is manageable, and the progression can be prevented with a lifestyle change.
Brittle or labile diabetes is a term describing the unresponsive type 1 diabetes. A person with this condition experiences frequent episodes of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia and ketoacidosis.
Brittle diabetes is relatively rare, but it occurs in young adults, mostly females. The condition is triggered by psychological issues or inconsistent digestion.
Diabetes Symptoms and Complications
Common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Polydipsia (increased thirst)
- Polyuria (increased urination)
- Polyphagia (increased hunger)
- Obesity or weight loss (occurs in type 1)
- Sugar in the urine or glycosuria
- Weakness and loss of body strength
- Skin irritation, blurred vision, nausea and abdominal pain
Unregulated blood sugar can predispose you to other health problems including eye and kidney problems, neuropathy or nerve damage, infections, hypertension, ketoacidosis, gum disease, erectile dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, stroke, foot ulcers, and depression.
How to Determine if you have Diabetes
Anyone with early signs of diabetes should get tested, especially if you are 45 years and above, are pregnant, overweight or obese. Healthcare professionals use one or all of these tests to diagnose diabetes:
Fasting Plasma Glucose Test
This test is used to detect borderline diabetes and diabetes mellitus. It is usually done in the morning or after eight hours of fasting. Depending on the results, you may be diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes.
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
OGTT is conducted in two stages--after eight hours of fasting and two hours after you take a drink containing glucose. This test can diagnose prediabetes, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
A1C gives an average blood sugar level over the last three months. Before making a final diagnosis, the doctor also considers age and other preexisting conditions like anemia.
Diabetes is an incurable metabolic disorder, but with proper management, you can regulate your blood sugar as well as prevent diabetic complications. Every individual needs a unique treatment plan, so speak to your doctor and dietitian on the different therapies to use.
The American Diabetes Association recommends two types of exercises--aerobics and strength training.
Aerobics trigger muscle contractions, whether insulin is available or not--lowering blood sugar. Additionally, it makes the heart and bones stronger, alleviate stress, reduces the risk of heart disease, improves blood cholesterol levels and promotes blood circulation.
Moderate aerobics like walking, hiking, cycling, jogging, water aerobics, dancing, and the chair exercises are recommended at least five times a week.
Strength training increases insulin sensitivity and enables the muscles to use the available insulin during and after a workout. These exercises also help build strong muscles and bones, reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
Read more on how to build muscles for seniors and the type of exercises recommended.
A Point to Remember
Physical activity can trigger hypoglycemia in patients on insulin medication. It is crucial to monitor your blood glucose before, during, and after exercise. Also, talk to your dietitian and doctor to find out if you are at risk of developing hypoglycemia.
Diet and Diabetes Mellitus
Your daily diet should be rich in nutrients, low in calories, and with minimal fats. The recommended foods include complex carbohydrates like brown rice, whole wheat, lentils, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Proteins and fats should be sourced from plant-based foods.
Stop Smoking and Limit Alcohol Intake
Smoking can be lethal to your health. Not only does it exacerbate the risk of heart disease, but also causes insulin resistance, stroke, and blood circulation problems.
Alcohol, on the other hand, prevents the liver from producing glucose which triggers hypoglycemia. Total abstinence from alcohol is not required, but it is essential to test your blood often to know how it affects your glucose levels. If in doubt, seek advice from your diabetes care team.
Neuropathy or nerve damage causes pain, tingling, foot weakness, and low blood flow in your feet. The inability to feel pain increase the risks of injuries, blisters, and wounds. If these foot ulcers are left untreated, they can cause other health complications and even leg amputation.
Blister pads are one of the most cost-effective ways to treat small foot sores.n ( See Product )
Remember to use diabetic insoles, which are ergonomically designed to provide comfort and aid in blood circulation. Also, make use of blister pads which are a simple and easy way to protect your feet.
Try compression socks for a slim, discreet way to manage diabetes symptoms in the lower leg. ( See Product )
To promote blood circulation in your lower limbs, try the Vive compression socks made from spandex and nylon blend. These stockings not only aid in blood flow but also relieve edema and varicose veins.
If a portable massage for legs, feet, and back is what you're looking for, try these hand massagers. ( See Product )
Additionally, you can use massage balls that are specially designed to relieve inflammation and irritated nerves. They're small enough to take anywhere, so you never have to leave home without a customized treatment.
Stress can result from physical injuries, illness, and mental problems, and it can alter your blood glucose.You can reduce anxiety and depression through yoga, Tai Chi, dancing, workouts, breathing exercises and meditation.
Monitor Your Blood Glucose
Glucose meters are a must-have for all people with diabetes as they enable you to track your blood sugar at any time. Test your blood glucose when you wake up, before and after meals, and record the readings.
Remember every glucose monitoring tool is different, so choose one based on accuracy, portability, ease of use, memory function, and cost. Also, consider buying a meter that can measure the ketone levels in the body.
Here are a few glucose meters to consider .
What About the Supplements for Diabetes?
A variety of supplements for diabetes are available, but the most recommended supplements are the bitter melon for diabetes. Bitter melon is a fruit which contains charantin, a compound for lowering blood glucose, polypeptide-d, an insulin-like compound, and Vicine. It also contains a lectin that suppresses appetite, but if taken in large amounts can trigger a hypoglycemic effect.
Make sure you check with your doctor and dietitian first before taking any form of multivitamin.
A support system will give you the motivation to manage your diabetes. Your family and friends will be your close companions.
Also, consider joining the American Diabetes Association, a community of like-minded people who provide materials and tips on how to safely manage blood glucose. If you are recently diagnosed with diabetes, enroll in the ADA diabetes program to get information and support.
Type 1 diabetes is a lifetime condition, which means a complete recovery may not be possible. Diabetes type 2, on the other hand, is a lifelong condition that can be managed with diet and exercise.
With proper management, your body can enter diabetes remission. ADA defines diabetes remission as having normal blood sugar without medication or weight loss surgery. You can have either partial or complete remission.
However, it is important to keep in mint that even if the blood glucose is within the normal range and the body doesn’t present diabetes symptoms anymore, the disease is still present. And, a slight change in your management or lifestyle can trigger the symptoms again.
Manage your Diabetes
Regular screening of blood sugar is the only way of managing diabetes, so ensure you get the right glucose meters for daily monitoring. You can consider getting a health insurance cover to help you cater for the cost of buying the meters, glucose strips, and insulin.