Miss Shade(not real name) has been a healthy woman most of her life. At 29, she was a buxom woman with a successful career as an accountant in a reputable firm. She wasn’t much of an eater, but she indulged herself in candy, cookies, cakes; anything suitable to satisfy her sweet tooth.
Her aunt was diagnosed with diabetes four years ago, and has been more in the hospital than out of it since then. The doctor told them it took quite long before she realized something was wrong with her, and the disease had eaten deep into her system. She needed dialysis for her failing kidneys, and her left foot had a huge sore that has refused to heal.
Although Miss Shade had been told she might also be prone to it due to the possibility of diabetes being hereditary, she never really took it serious.
“I assumed only older people had the disease, and even if it was hereditary, I still had more years on my side to prepare against it”, Miss Shade said.
One morning at work, she realized she was going to pee more than usual. Within an hour, she had gone to the toilet four times. She felt so weak and thirsty.
“I knew something was wrong”, she said. After two and half hours, she decided to visit the company clinic.
“The Doctor immediately ordered for my random blood sugar test after speaking with me. I was surprised when the result came back and the doctor told me my sugar level was too high”, she continued.
“It felt like a dream to me; a diabetic at 29?! I had just started my life! I started having horrible imaginations of amputated limbs, failed kidneys, and confinement to the hospital bed for the rest of my life by the age of 35!”
“The doctor reassured me, and advised that if I could control the kinds of food I ate and took my drugs regularly, I could still live a long, healthy life”, she said.
“So far, I’ve been able to adhere to the rules; using my drugs regularly, avoiding simple sugar foods like candy and pastry, and living life with a positive mind”.
“Diabetes is not curable,” she enthused, “but it can be well managed with discipline, hard work and determination.”
Diabetes is one of the commonest “silent killer” diseases around us. As long as we are amongst people, it is not so hard discovering at least, one person battling with the disease. It could be you, your parents, spouse, neighbours, or even children. That is why it is necessary that we learn more about how to prevent it, as well as manage it for those who already have it.
When a person is initially diagnosed with diabetes, he or she is totally scared and worried about dying soon. Thoughts of becoming bind, getting amputated limbs, or finally ending up as a vegetable, fills one’s mind and it seems all hope is lost.
The good news is that, once you have adequate knowledge on how to manage diabetes, you prevent a worse condition for yourself, and go on to live a normal, healthy life.
Diabetes is a disease in which there are abnormally high blood sugar levels. This could happen due to two main reasons:
- The body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin
- The body fails to respond to insulin
Insulin is a protein hormone, produced in the pancreas that is important in regulating the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The effect of Insulin is the storage of carbohydrate, protein and fat; hence, it is called the “hormone of abundance.”
There are three different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes- In this form of diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin or no insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes- In this form of diabetes, the body does not respond normally to insulin produced. This is known as INSULIN RESISTANCE.
- Gestational diabetes-It occurs when pregnant women without a history of diabetes develop high blood glucose level.
RISK FACTORS FOR DIABETES
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Decrease in muscle mass (especially in old people).
- Muscles use sugar to generate energy, hence, less muscle results in less sugar being consumed for energy, and more sugar is converted to fat.
- Heredity- Diabetes is likely to develop amongst people whose parents or close relatives had it.
- Old age
- Someone who already has high blood pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
- Someone who had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy or a baby weighing more than 4kg
- Women that have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
- Diabetes may show no symptoms for months, or even years, before it is diagnosed
- High level of sugar in the blood
- Polyuria- urinating in abnormally large volumes
- Abnormal thirst(polydipsia)
- Weight loss in spite of increased appetite
- Blurred vision
- Decreased endurance during exercise
- Lightheadedness on standing
- Worsening vision with damage to blood vessels of the eyes
- Swelling in the legs and other parts of the body due to kidney failure
- Pain or numbness and tingling of hands and feet
- Foot infections and ulcers
- Sudden loss of function of limbs
Most people who have diabetes have no symptoms. Symptoms tend to become more prominent with time. The best way to arrest the situation as early as possible is to have a screening test for diabetes, especially if one is with any of the risk factors above. The screening test involves a simple blood work in which your blood sugar level is measured. A person is diagnosed with diabetes if the blood sugar level is above 125mg/dl in a fasting state, or 200mg/dl and higher if the test was performed at random.
PREVENTION OF DIABETES
- PROPER DIET: foods that could increase blood sugar levels like starchy foods (rice, bread), and sweets (cake, sugar); should be reduced from one’s diet.
- EXERCISE: engaging in physical activity is another way to prevent the onset of diabetes.one should avoid living a sedentary life, and engage in brisk walking, tennis, swimming, and other forms of exercises regularly.
- WEIGHT LOSS: being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes; hence, one should try to maintain a normal weight. Determining what one’s normal weight is meant to be can be calculated using the Body Mass Index BMI. This is done by dividing weight (in kilograms) by height (in metres squared).
- Underweight: less than 19
- Normal weight: 19 to 25
- Overweight: more than 25 but less than 30
- Obese: 30 and above
As soon as a diagnosis is made, the healthcare professional will recommend medications to control the disease and prevent complications. Routine visits will also be arranged so that the patient’s progress is regularly monitored. In the same vein, exercise is encouraged and diet should be well monitored. A person with diabetes goes on to live a long, healthy life if these steps are taken in their right proportions.
- Hall, John E. Pocket Companion to Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. 11th Pennsylvania: Elsevier Inc., 2006.
- Peters, Anne L. Conquering Diabetes. USA: Plume (Penguin Group Inc.), 2005.
- Beers, Mark H., Jones, Thomas V., et al (eds.). The Merck Manual of Health and Aging. New York: Ballantine Books, 2004.