April 15, 2015
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease when the body does not make enough hormone insulin or cannot use it properly. Type I is when the pancreas produces no insulin. In type II diabetes the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells ignore the insulin. 95% of the people have type II diabetes.
How does it affect us?
The food we eat is converted into glucose. Insulin makes this glucose to enter the cells and be used as energy. In diabetes there is not enough insulin or cannot be used properly and so glucose builds within the body and damages the nerves and the blood vessels. The nerve damage gives rise to numbness and burning and the arteries may get choked and reduce blood supply to the part.
Why do we have to worry about our feet?
The loss of feeling in the feet make it hard to tell if you have a blister or a sore and if ignored they lead to ulcers which may get infected and become serious requiring an amputation.
How to avoid problems with our feet?
Keep your blood sugar under check and follow your doctor’s advice regarding diet and exercise.
Advise on foot care:
- Wash daily with luke warm water and mild soap.
- Dry feet well between toes using soft pad and do not rub.
- Keep feet smooth by applying cream on heels especially cracks.
- Keep feet dry by nonmedicated powder before wearing shoes.
- Examine feet daily including sole using handle mirror. Contact your doctor if you have numbness, tingling, redness, pain or swelling.
- Treat corns only after your doctor’s advice.
- Cut toenails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. Soak feet in warm water to soften toe nails before cutting. File carefully.
- Avoid feet getting too hot or cold
- Do not go bare feet.
What to look for while choosing shoes and socks?
- Never wear shoes without socks.
- Avoid sandals or open toed shoes.
- Avoid high heels or shoes with pointed toes.
- Wear well padded socks that are not stretch, nylon or have elastic bands at the top or with inside seams.
- Avoid ill-fitting shoes. Preferably they should be custom made.
- Buy new shoes at the end of the day when feet are swollen.
- Wear new shoes one hour daily and slowly get increase the usage time to acclimatise.
- Change socks and shoes daily and have at least 2 pairs
- Look within shoe before wearing to avoid gravel which could rub and cause sores.
How often to visit a doctor?
At regular intervals if everything is fine but if there is pain, swelling, redness or numbness then go right away.
How to stay healthy with diabetes?
Though diabetes cannot be cured you still can live a healthy and normal life. Keep blood sugar under check by eating right diet, exercising, maintaining proper weight and taking medicines or insulin.
This should be low in fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar. Eat 3 meals daily and never skip a meal.
Exercise helps body to use insulin and lower blood sugar levels, lower weight and give more energy.
Losing excess weight helps insulin to work better and lowers the blood pressure thus reducing the risk of heart disease.
If diet, exercise and weight loss cannot control diabetes then drugs are recommended. Oral medicines help produce more insulin or helps to use the present insulin more efficiently. Synthetic insulin may be needed.
How to check blood sugar levels?
Simply prick finger to get a drop of blood and put it in the electronic glucose meter and read the result. The doctor will tell you how often to carry out the check.
What if blood sugar gets too low?
This is hypoglycaemia and a dangerous condition. It is recognised as below:
· Feeling tired and yawning
· loss of muscle coordination
· sweating, twitching
· Pale with loss of consciousness.
Immediately take fruit juice, 2 tsf raisens, a cup milk, candy or glucose tablets. If you are no better in 15 minutes then repeat the above diet.
What health problems can diabetes cause?
It can be a dangerous and life threatening disease if blood sugar levels are not controlled.
The organs involved are:
- Diabetic retinopathy – blindness and loss of vision by damaging small blood vessels in the retina.
- Heart disease – diabetics are twice as likely to damage the heart and heart vessels leading to heart attack and stroke.
- Diabetic neuropathy – nerve damage leading to burning and numbness in the limbs.
- Diabetic arteriopathy – damage of the arteries to the legs leading to infection and gangrene which may lead to amputation.
- Diabetic nephropathy – damage to the vessels in the kidneys leading to poor filtration of the waste products. Patients may need dialysis or renal transplant.
The good news is that these complications can be prevented by proper control of diabetes.
How to know if you have diabetes?
In the early stages one may not be aware of diabetes and by the time you become aware the damage may already have been done to the eyes, kidneys and the heart and blood vessels. Symptoms may include the following:
- Extreme thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Frequent urination
- Poor and delayed healing
- Dry & itchy skin
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurry vision
- Unusually tired and drowsy
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
- Frequent infections of skin, bladder, vaginal yeast infections
Who is at risk for diabetes?
- Over 45 years
- Over weight
- Do not exercise regularly
- Parent, brother or sister has diabetes
- With babies over 9 lbs you have diabetes
- African American, Asian American, Pacific islander.
If you have more than one risk factors then you should be screened for diabetes.
How would you be tested for Diabetes?
A fasting blood glucose test with result > 126 mg% when the normal range is 70 – 99 mg%. If the test shows result > 126 mg% on two separate days then one is diagnosed as diabetic. Tests between 100 – 125 mg% are prediabetics.
Why is it necessary to diagnose diabetes early?
Sometimes people do not know they are diabetics for years and by then complications have set in like eyes, kidneys heart and vessels. We know that by life style changes and dietary changes we can prevent complications so the earlier the diagnosis the better for the patient.
There is no cure for diabetes and the only thing we can do is to avoid complications to remain healthy.