Types, Warning Signs, and Management
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition which is caused when the body can’t use the sugar in your body. Normally, insulin is released from the pancreas to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin, or when the body does not respond properly to insulin. People with diabetes need to manage their condition to stay healthy.
Prediabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are high, but not yet within the range of diabetes. By taking preventive actions such as dietary changes, there's still time to control the levels and prevent diabetes from developing.
Types of Diabetes
There are three major types of diabetes; type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
- Type 1 Diabetes (Juvenile Diabetes)
Type 1 diabetes most often begins in childhood, and is usually caused by a genetic disposition. In people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, their bodies do not produce insulin. Treatment for Type 1 diabetes involves taking insulin, which is injected into one's body. People with type 1 diabetes can lead long, active lives if they carefully manage their glucose, make any necessary lifestyle changes, and adhere to a care plan.
- Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes; approximately 95% of diabetes cases in adults are type 2. However, teenagers and children who are obese can also develop Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is often a milder form than type 1. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces some insulin, but the amount produced is either not enough, or the body's cells are resistant to it. People who are obese (more than 20% over their ideal body weight, or Prediabetic, are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is triggered by pregnancy and is often diagnosed in mid-to-late pregnancy. Because high blood sugar levels in a mother are circulated to the baby, gestational diabetes must be controlled to protect the baby's growth and development. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 9% of pregnant women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes (DeSisto, Kim, & Sharma, 2014). Treatment during pregnancy includes careful meal planning, daily exercise, controlling pregnancy weight gain, and taking insulin to control blood sugar, if needed.
The warning signs of diabetes can go unnoticed, particularly with type 2 diabetes. Common symptoms include:
- Hunger and fatigue
- Going to the bathroom often and feeling thirsty
- Dry mouth and itchy skin
- Blurred vision
- Sores or cuts that heal slowly
- Pain or numbness in legs or feet
- Unexplained weight loss
If you or a loved one demonstrates any of these signs, please consult with your primary care doctor.
Most people with diabetes have a daily routine and know to check their blood sugar. Others may need more help; below are some ways to manage diabetes:
- Check your Hemoglobin A1c every 3-6 months- This test measures your average blood sugar level over a few months. A higher A1C result means that you have a higher risk of developing complications.
- Get a Diabetic Retinal Exam yearly- Your eye healthcare provider will review your medical history, use eye drops to widen (dilate) your pupils, examines your eyes and checks your vision.
- Get your urine checked for kidney disease yearly- Your doctor will order urine tests to check for protein in your urine. This is caused by increased sugar which damages the blood vessels in your kidneys.
- Talk to your doctor about whether you should be taking a statin- If you are a diabetic, you are at higher risk for heart disease. Therefore, even if you do not have high cholesterol, your doctor may still want you to take a statin (cholesterol-lowering drug).
- Diet - following a meal plan, eating at the same time every day, not skipping meals and drinking plenty of fluids
- Exercise - following a consistent exercise routine, bringing glucose tablets or a snack, and checking blood sugar before and after workouts are all important; make sure to wear your diabetes ID tag if working out at a gym or other fitness center
- Stress - Stress can affect blood sugar; to help relax, try walking or breathing exercises, meditation, listening to music, engaging in a favorite hobby such as gardening or playing an instrument
- Feet - Check your feet regularly; look for any red spots, blisters or sores
- Oral care - Brush and floss every day and keep up with dentist visits
DeSisto, C., Kim, S., & Sharma, A. (2014). Preventing Chronic Disease; Prevalence Estimates of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in the United States, Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), 2007-2010. Retrieved July 17, 2018, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/13_0415.html
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