Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a disease in which the body cannot regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Glucose is necessary in order to have the energy to perform daily activities, but too much glucose causes complications. The blood glucose level is regulated by a hormone called insulin. People with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or cannot use insulin properly (Type 2 diabetes).
Diabetes-related complications include:
- Damage to kidneys
- Damage to nerves resulting in foot wounds and ulcers, which can lead to foot and leg amputation
- Atherosclerosis resulting in blockages or clots, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, and poor circulation in arms and legs
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Short-term complications can include:
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Diabetic Ketoacidosis (a build-up of acidic waste in the blood)
- Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (a serious condition related to very high levels of blood sugar)
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, regular exams should be sought to check for early signs of complications. Important exams include eyes, kidney function, blood pressure, cholesterol, and sensation in the legs and feet.
A healthy diet is the key to controlling glucose and thereby preventing the complications of diabetes. For an obese patient having trouble losing weight, seeing a dietitian can be very beneficial. Regular exercise can help reduce the complications of diabetes, but a doctor should be consulted before beginning any kind of exercise program.
Alcohol consumption should be limited or eliminated as it can cause low or high glucose levels. Smoking or using any form of tobacco raises the risk of all complications of diabetes. Because there is a relationship between blood sugar levels and complications, it is important to check glucose levels regularly. At a minimum, glucose levels should be checked before meals and at bedtime, and the numbers recorded so that the physician can see the pattern of glucose levels at various times each day. Regular testing helps with management of medications and with regulation of glucose levels.
Treatment of diabetes is individual because the disease and lifestyle vary with the person. Working with a physician to regulate blood glucose levels, and obtaining diabetic education, are excellent ways in which to create and maintain a new lifestyle after a diagnosis of diabetes.
For those with diabetes, adequate disease management is too important to ignore. Poor blood sugar regulation costs more in the long run, with higher costs of medical treatment, time spent in treatment, and possibly even death.