Being diagnosed with diabetes is disconcerting and managing the condition can be quite overwhelming as it involves diet and lifestyle changes, along with keeping up with medications.
In this article, we share a couple of basic information that a newly diagnosed diabetes patient should find useful.
Diabetes means that your blood has higher amounts of glucose (sugar) than normal, which is between 4.0 to 5.6 mmol/L (72 to 99 mg/dL) when fasting and below 7.8 mmol/L (140 mg/dL) if the reading is taken 2 hours after a meal.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D), that tends to develop during childhood, is caused by an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas produces little to no insulin (hormone that helps to control the level of blood glucose in the body) whereas Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is known as adult-onset diabetes because it is usually diagnosed later in life. In T2D, the pancreas produces insulin, but the body doesn’t respond normally to the insulin produced.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is not associated with excess body weight and the patient might even be underweight. On the contrary, Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is commonly associated with excess body weight.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) often results in higher ketone levels but Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is often associated with high blood pressure or cholesterol levels at diagnosis.
There is no known cause for Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and there is no way to reverse or cure it. Symptoms such as becoming seriously ill may happen during childhood or adolescence.
People with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) have to take insulin because their bodies do not produce it. In the beginning, low dose insulin is given as the body is producing a significant amount of its own insulin, but as time passes, the body will stop producing and a higher insulin dose will be needed. There are several types of insulin, and doctors and pharmacists will teach diabetic patients the right way to use an insulin pen.
Type 2 Diabetes is usually treated with oral medicines but insulin injections may be prescribed if oral medications do not adequately control the blood sugar level, along with lifestyle adjustment. The goal of insulin therapy is to mimic the way the pancreas would produce and distribute its own insulin, if it is able to produce it.
The pills prescribed to control Type 2 Diabetes do not contain insulin. Instead, medications such as metformin, sulfonylureas, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors and many others are used to make naturally produced insulin more effective.
Diet and exercise can help ease the effects of Type 1 diabetes (T1D). Eating a healthy diet with more vegetables and fruits, less fat, sugar and salty food and having a carbohydrate conscious diet can control your blood glucose level.
If you have pre-diabetes or have just been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, losing a lot of weight can put the condition into remission. However, regaining weight, ageing and the natural progression of Type 2 Diabetes can bring it back. Totally eliminating carbs or severely restricting carbs is not advisable and nearly impossible for any length of time. Besides, it is also not healthy because you won’t be getting enough of essential nutrients.
Similarly, staying physically fit and active could keep your heart healthy, which can prevent the macrovascular complications associated with diabetes. Physical activity can help in controlling blood glucose levels. When our muscles work, they take in glucose from the blood, liver and muscles. After exercise, the body will start replenishing glucose by steadily taking in available glucose from the blood.
As well as helping to lower blood sugar levels, exercising makes use of the energy we take in from our diet, meaning that if you exercise more without increasing calorie intake, this can help you lose weight.
Other lifestyle adjustments such as reducing intake of alcohol and quiting smoking will also help your diabetes and general health.
People with diabetes are prone to infections, including bacterial and fungal infections, especially of the skin. Bacterial infections may include styes (otherwise known as hordeolum, a bacterial infection of an oil gland in the eyelid which results in a red tender bump at the edge of the eyelid), infection of hair follicles and nails. Candida causes many fungal infections in Type 1 diabetes (T1D) sufferers such as jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm, and vaginal yeast infection. As such, good skin care and hygiene is important to reduce the chances of infections.
Checking your feet every day is one way to avoid foot problems such as bleeding corns and calluses, blisters, ingrowing toenails, dry and cracked skin, redness, swelling, warmth, pain over the
legs, slow healing of wounds, and loss of sensation due to nerve damage (neuropathy). If you can’t feel your feet, you may not know that you are actually hurt and a small cut or sore can soon turn into something bigger. With proper foot care, it is estimated that as many as half of foot and leg amputations could be prevented.
If you do injure your foot, do not try to self treat or self medicate at home, instead, go to the nearest pharmacy or clinic. Likewise for any swelling, warmth, redness or pain in your legs or feet, or develop a foot ulcer, refer to a doctor or foot specialist immediately where they may have to clean it out (i.e. debridement process).
Make sure you never walk barefoot, even inside your home, wear good-fitting shoes and check for any stones that may be inside your shoes.
1. Do Not Split Pills (to cut costs) – Many diabetes medications are extended release. If you split pills, you might break the ‘matrix’, which can result in the wrong amounts released at the wrong times, giving negative effects on blood sugar levels.
2. Do Not Skip A Dose – One of the biggest mistakes people with diabetes make is the assumption on that “if you don’t eat, you don’t need the medication”, but people forget that the body produces glucose from other sources beyond the food that you eat.
3. Do Not Assume ‘Natural’ Equates To Safe – Many natural supplements can affect blood sugar, including niacin, DHEA, ginkgo biloba, melatonin, black or green tea and high-dose of fish oil or vitamin C. So it is advisable to check with a doctor or pharmacist before you start taking any supplement so that you are aware of how the supplement might affect your blood sugar.
Lastly, don’t get discouraged. A lot of people with diabetes will need more than one medication to effectively manage their condition. This does not necessarily mean you are not doing well, and even if you need insulin, it does not mean you have a worst case of diabetes.