Diabetes mellitus, more commonly referred to as Diabetes, is a group of related diseases in which a person’s blood sugar level is higher than normal.
This occurs either because the body cannot produce enough insulin or, the insulin being produced is not used by the body efficiently.
Glucose is used by the body to provide the energy which enables us to perform all of our regular bodily functions. It is manufactured by the liver and derived from the foods we eat.
The hormone insulin is produced by the pancreas and enables the cells of the liver, muscle and fatty tissue to extract the glucose from the blood and store it in the liver and muscles.
When the body does not produce enough insulin, or if the insulin does not function the way it should, the glucose remains in the bloodstream instead of being absorbed into the cells. Your blood glucose level then becomes elevated resulting in pre-diabetes or diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body produces little or no insulin and is most common in children, adolescents, or young adults. (aka juvenile diabetes and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus).
Its exact cause is yet to be determined but it is believed that the body's white blood cells attack the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells and within a period of 5 - 10 years the beta cells are completely destroyed and the body no longer produces insulin.
While some people will have no symptoms others may experience:
- Feelings of tiredness or fatigue
- Increased appetite
- Constant thirst
- Urinating very often
- Weight loss without trying
- Blurred vision
- Loss of feeling or tingling in the feet
- Deep, rapid breathing
- Dry skin and mouth
- Increased pulse rate
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
Over time, if left untreated high blood glucose levels can become life-threatening or lead to severe disabilities such as:
- Kidney disease and kidney failure (diabetic nephropathy)
- Damage to the blood vessels that supply the legs and feet (peripheral vascular disease)
- Pain and numbness in the feet, stomach and intestines, heart, and other body organs as a result of nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy)
- Stroke and increased risk of a heart attack.
- Worsening of eyesight or blindness due to eye disease (diabetic retinopathy)
- Swelling or thickening of the eye's macula (the part of your eye responsible for detailed, central vision)
- Foot sores or ulcers (which can result in amputation)
- Infections to the skin, female genital tract, and urinary tract
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Erectile dysfunction
Type 1 diabetes may develop within a relatively short time span and can be very severe at its onset, oftentimes requiring treatment at a medical facility. It’s a chronic (lifelong) disease which is not preventable and for which there is no cure to date.
However, good diabetes care and management can prevent or delay the onset of more serious complications associated with this disease.
Presently the only form of treatment is by introducing insulin through injections or an insulin pump. The pump delivers the insulin continuously while injections must be taken from one to four times a day.
It is extremely important that the diabetic person be proactive in learning how to manage their illness.
Following the proper procedures will enable you to live a long, healthy and relatively normal life. It all begins with regular self-monitoring of your blood sugar level through the use of a blood glucose meter, lancet and test strip and the keeping of accurate records of your test results (this provides a means for your doctor to determine how well his recommendations are working).
Along with taking your insulin, you need to:
- Have a balanced meal plan
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Be physically active
- Maintain your cholesterol and other blood fats in your target range
- Maintain your blood pressure at or close to the target level
- Manage your stress effectively
- Regularly visit your dentist, doctor and optometrist/ophthalmologist.
- Check and care for your feet daily
It is vital that you constantly be aware of your blood sugar level and consult your doctor, health care provider or 911(depending on the severity) at the first signs that something is awry.
Should you experience: blood sugar levels which are higher than the goals set by your doctor, shortness of breath, extreme thirst and drinking and frequent urination, severe abdominal pain, numbness, tingling, pain in your feet or legs, spasms characterized by sensations of choking or suffocating, severe nausea and vomiting, and inability to drink liquids or eat.
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