YOU and Your Doctor Are Your Medical Team – November 2023

This article is a basic over-view of Diabetes Mellitus [ DM ]. Those who have diabetes themselves may have more specific information about their unique medical condition. The main focus here is to help identify signs of DM, problems associated with this condition, and appreciate the necessity of managing it. FYI – even cats and dogs can develop Diabetes.

The basics: The pancreas is located on the right side of your body/abdomen, behind your stomach, in front of your spine, surrounded by the gallbladder, liver and spleen. It has 2 functions: producing enzymes that help with digestion and production of hormones (insulin) and sending them into the blood system to control the amount of sugar there. 

DM is a disorder when the pancreas cannot properly produce or respond to the hormone insulin, resulting in elevated levels of blood sugar/glucose. The body cells need sugar in the form of glucose for energy. However, glucose in the blood requires insulin, to be released /absorbed by body’s cells. Insulin attaches to cells and signals when the time is right to absorb glucose. By absorbing glucose, cells in fat deposits, the liver, and the muscles get the vital fuel while lowering levels of glucose in the blood.

FYI: A1C is a common blood test used to diagnose type I and type II diabetes. If you have DM it is also used to monitor how well you’re managing blood sugar levels for the past two to three months. The higher your A1C level indicates poor blood sugar control and increased risk of diabetic complications.

Type I DM: blood glucose concentrations are high because of a decrease in insulin production. Type II DM: glucose levels are high because cells in the body do not respond appropriately to insulin. In both Type I and Type II DM:  cells cannot access the nutrients they need even though there is plenty of sugar in the blood, because insulin can’t transport the sugar from the blood stream into the cells that need it. Type 1 DM can develop quickly over weeks or even days. Many people have type II DM for years without realizing it, because the early symptoms tend to be general.  

Some of the symptoms of type I and type II diabetes:  (a) feeling more thirsty than usual, (b) urinating often, (c)  unexplained weight loss even when eating more, (d) presence of ketones in the urine- a by product of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin, (e) feeling tired and weak,(f) feeling irritable or mood changes, (g) blurry vision,  (h)  slow healing sores, (i) having a lot of infections, such as  skin and vaginal infections, (j) red, swollen, tender gums,(k) tingling, pain or numbness of feet and/or hands.

Early detection and treatment can decrease the risk of developing complications of DM. Complications of uncontrolled diabetes, especially if undiagnosed and untreated: (a) heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease,(b) nerve damage- neuropathy, (c) kidney damage/failure –nephropathy, (d) eye damage – Glaucoma, Cataracts, Retinopathy, blindness,  (d)  hearing impairment,  (e) autonomic neuropathy -damage to the nerves that control your internal organs,  such as: digestive issues – condition called gastroparesis, and  trouble sensing when your bladder is full, (f) dizziness, fainting, or not knowing when your blood sugar is low, (g) raises  risk of dementia, and (h)  amputations of extremities, especially your toes / feet.

Diabetes IS a manageable medical condition, but YOU must take charge of the situation. Depending on the individual situations a lifestyle change may keep blood sugars under control to halt or even reverse a diabetic complication. Other times medications are indicated to manage complications and prevent them from getting worse. Treatment of complications focuses on slowing down the damage, which is important and this includes: keeping blood sugar levels under control, eating healthy for this condition, exercise, keeping a healthy weight, avoid smoking, and get high blood pressure and high cholesterol checked regularly and treated.

A semi-annual check-up with your family doctor is recommended, this may include some blood tests to assess other conditions, and evaluating if you have Diabetes if not previously diagnosed. IF you already have DM, a regular check-up in addition to your own home glucose self-monitoring is advised. This is a serious condition which affects your heart and kidney function, etc.. and your quality of  life,  if it is not diagnosed and/or under control.

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Jackie Kellum

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