Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar levels, or glucose, are too high. This can cause serious problems including kidney, eyes or nerve damage, heart disease, stroke and amputation of a limb.
Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose, which is found in food, get into your cells and give them energy. If you have Type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make insulin. If you have Type 2 diabetes, which is more common, your body isn’t using its insulin efficiently. Without efficient use of insulin, the glucose stays in your blood and doesn’t get into the cells.
Type 1 Diabetes can develop at any age but it usually appears or is diagnosed during childhood or adolescence. Type 2 Diabetes can develop at any age, though it's more common in people older than 40. A blood test can show whether you have diabetes.
Diabetes symptoms vary in severity depending on how much your blood sugar is elevated. They include:
- Extreme hunger
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Presence of ketones in the urine
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections
Risk Factors for Type 1 Diabetes Include:
- Family history (increased risk if a parent or sibling has the disease)
- Environmental factors (exposure to a viral illness)
- Presence of damaging immune system cells (autoimmune disease)
Risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes Include:
- Age (risk increases as you age)
- Family history
- Race (blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and American Indians and Asian-Americans are at higher risk)
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Managing DiabetesHealthy eating. Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Reduce the amount of animal products, sweets and refined carbohydrates that you consume. Focus on high fiber, low carb foods. Physical activity. Not only does exercise lower your blood sugar level by moving sugar into your cells, where it's used for energy, it also increases your sensitivity to insulin. That means your body needs less insulin to move sugar to your cells. Aim for at least 30 minutes or more of aerobic exercise most days of the week, as tolerated. Check with your physician.
People with Type 1 Diabetes need regular insulin injections. Those with Type 2 Diabetes benefit from diet and oral medication. Everyone living with the disease needs to monitor their blood sugar regularly.Monitoring your blood sugar
- Depending on the treatment plan developed with your doctor, you may need to check and record your blood sugar levels as often as several times per day. Other people may only need to check their levels several times per week. The only way to ensure that your blood sugar level remains within your target range is through careful monitoring.
- Use a glucometer and test strips to check your glucose levels. First, clean a fingertip with preparation wipes, then, prick the skin with a lancet. A small drop of blood will be present; place it on a test strip so the meter can read it and calculate the blood sugar level. The glucometer will display the level in seconds. Dispose of the lancet in a sharps container.
- You can also test your ketones to see if your diabetes is under control. Ketone is a chemical produced when there is a shortness of insulin in the blood. Ketones in the urine are a sign that your body is burning fat cells for energy, rather than glucose because there is not enough insulin available to use glucose for energy. Ketone tests include strips. Once you get a urine sample, place the strip in the sample and gently shake off excess urine. Wait for the strip to change color. Compare the color to the color chart provided. This will indicate the amount of ketones in your urine. Write down your results.
Insulin can't be taken by mouth because stomach enzymes interfere with insulin's action. Instead, insulin is usually injected using a fine needle and syringe or an insulin pen — a device that looks like a large ink pen. Other people may use an insulin pump.
- It’s a good idea for you to wear a tag or bracelet that identifies that you have diabetes, in case of an emergency.
- Keep a glucagon kit nearby in case, and make sure loved ones know how to use it. Make regular physicals and eye exams to look for diabetes-related complications and other medical issues.
- Stay vaccinated because high blood sugar can weaken your immune system.
- Watch your feet. People with diabetes have increased risk of damage to their feet. Wash them daily in lukewarm water and dry them gently, especially between the toes. Apply diabetic foot creams, but not between the toes. Check for swelling, blisters, cuts and redness daily. Wear compression stockings to reduce swelling and help you lead a more active lifestyle.
- Eat well and exercise regularly to keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control.
- Take care of your teeth, brushing and flossing twice daily. Diabetes may leave you prone to more-serious gum infections.
- Quit smoking and only drink responsibly. Smoking increases your risk of various complications, especially heart disease. Drinking can cause high or low blood sugar, affecting your condition.