Understanding Diabetes and Knowing How to Better Control It
There are two major types of Diabetes Mellitus. You have the Type I diabetes mellitus, which is DM caused by an autoimmune disorder. This type usually begins in childhood. In this condition, the pancreas is no longer producing the adequate amount of insulin, so the glucose level is increased in the bloodstream. Insulin is very important because it attaches to the cells and sends a signal to start absorbing sugar from the bloodstream.
You also have Type 2 DM. This is the most common form and is usually caused by diet and lifestyle choices. In this condition, the pancreas is producing insulin, but the amount may be insufficient or the cells of the body are insulin-resistant, meaning the insulin are not attaching to the cells. Because sugar is not being absorbed properly, its level then increases in the bloodstream.
There are also other types of diabetes mellitus. There is the gestational diabetes which occurs when a woman is pregnant, and there is also DM caused by diseases of the pancreas or medications taken by a person.
What are the symptoms of diabetes mellitus?
The most common symptoms of diabetes mellitus are the three Ps:
- Polyphagia, which is excessive thirst and increased fluid intake.
- Polyuria, which is increased urination.
- Polyphagia, which is excessive appetite.
These three symptoms form a vicious cycle. Because sugar is not being absorbed by the cells, a signal will be sent to the brain that the cells are “hungry.” The brain will then send back a signal to eat and drink more (polyphagia and polyuria) to increase the energy level as well as decrease the increasing blood sugar level. Because of increased fluid intake, there will also be an increased urinary frequency (polyuria). However, since glucose is not absorbed properly due to insulin problems, the cycle will be repeated.
Other symptoms of diabetes mellitus include:
- Fatigability due to low energy level.
- Dehydration due to increased urinary frequency. This also leads to dry and itchy skin.
- Blurry vision due to high sugar level that causes swelling of the lens.
- Slow-healing wounds due to high sugar level that impedes normal blood flow.
- Tingling, numbness, and pain in the distal extremities due to peripheral nerve damage.
- Weight loss.
How is diabetes mellitus diagnosed?
If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important that you visit your primary care physician immediately. Some of the tests that will be ordered include glycated hemoglobin A1c test which measures the Hemoglobin A1c in your body (normal level is below 5.7) as well as fasting blood sugar test which measures the glucose level in the blood after fasting overnight (normal level is 100 mg/dL or 5.6 mmol/L).
Other tests include oral glucose tolerance test which also tests the glucose level in the blood (normal level is 140 mg/dL or 7.8 mmol/L) and insulin autoantibody test if Type 1 DM is suspected. If you are pregnant and are suffering from DM symptoms, a glucose challenge test may also be ordered.
If you prefer you can also order lab tests online without a physician visit. You can just to print the clinic’s lab order online and take it with you when you visit your local laboratory center. If the test item is not covered by your insurance company, you can easily check and compare affordable lab tests offered by the different providers and choose among the best lab test price without insurance.
What are the treatment options for diabetes mellitus?
Type 1 DM patients are usually prescribed insulin shots to boost the insulin level in the bloodstream, and the shot is injected through the skin. Insulin shots may also be given to patients with Type 2 DM if there are risk factors present and blood sugar level can no longer be controlled through oral medications, lifestyle changes, proper diet, and regular exercise.
What can you do to improve your condition?
It has been proven that newly-diagnosed patients with less severe diabetes can improve their condition through lifestyle changes. However, it is going to take a lot of dedication and commitment if you are choosing to go this route. Below are some of the things that you can do to improve your condition:
- Avoid simple carbohydrates such as white rice, white bread, and in general any foods high in sugar. Switch to foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as green vegetables, whole grain bread, beans and peas, as well as starchy veggies.
- Closely monitor your calorie intake and carefully plan your meals.
- Go on a regular exercise regimen. Not only can this help you decrease weight, but exercise can also increase your cell’s sensitivity to insulin. There should be both a cardio and weight training component in your exercise regimen though.
- Avoid too much stress.
- Get enough quality sleep at night.
- If you are overweight, then you need to lose weight.
- If you are pregnant and have gestational diabetes, then you also need to control your pregnancy weight gain.
- Closely monitor your blood sugar levels at home and through regular follow-up checkup and lab tests.
- Follow your doctor’s orders.
Can diabetes mellitus be controlled without insulin shots and medications?
Unfortunately, patients with Type 1 DM will need insulin shots and other medications since their diabetes is irreversible. However, they will also benefit greatly from lifestyle changes, proper diet, and regular exercise.
Patients with Type 2 DM, on the other hand, have a better chance of controlling their blood sugar level through lifestyle changes, proper diet, and regular exercise since they are usually non-insulin dependent and their condition may be reversible. However, controlling their DM through these alone depends upon a lot of factors. The duration of diabetes, severity of the case, levels of the blood sugar, genes, age, lifestyle choices, and other preexisting medical conditions will all have an effect on the condition. So the individual will need to work closely with his/her physician in monitoring and controlling the diabetes mellitus, especially if he/she wants to potentially come off medications or at least decrease medication use.
Diabetes mellitus and its complications can be life-threatening if left untreated. However, it can be controlled through lifestyle changes, proper diet and exercise, and monitoring of the disease.