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Diabetes Demands a Triad of Treatments

Two Types of Diabetes continued...

In Type I diabetes, the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas are destroyed, with insulin production almost ceasing. Experts believe that this may be the result of an immune response after a viral infection.

Type I diabetics must inject insulin regularly under the skin. Insulin cannot be taken by mouth because it cannot be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. Doses range from one or two up to five injections a day, adjusted in response to regular blood sugar monitoring.

Insulin regulates both blood sugar and the speed at which sugar moves into cells. Because food intake affects the cells' need for insulin and insulin's ability to lower blood sugar, the diet is the cornerstone of diabetes management: Insulin is not a replacement for proper diet.

Symptoms of untreated insulin-dependent diabetes include:

  • continuous need to urinate
  • excessive thirst
  • increased appetite
  • weakness
  • tiredness
  • urinary tract infections
  • recurrent skin infections, such as boils
  • vaginal yeast infections in women
  • blurred vision
  • tingling or numbness in hands or feet.

If Type I diabetes goes untreated, a life-threatening condition called ketoacidosis can quickly develop. If this condition is not treated, coma and death will follow.

Type II, or non-insulin-dependent, diabetes is the most common type. It results when the body produces insufficient insulin to meet the body's needs, or when the cells of the body have become resistant to insulin's effect. While all Type I diabetics develop symptoms, only a third of those who have Type II diabetes develop symptoms. Many people suffer from a mild form of the disease and are unaware of it. Often it's diagnosed only after complications are detected.

When they occur, Type II symptoms usually include frequent urination, excessive thirst, fatigue, an increase in infections, blurred vision, tingling in hands or feet, impotence in men, and absence of menstrual periods in women.

Type II diabetes usually develops in people over 40, and it often runs in families. For instance, Pattie LaBelle was diagnosed with Type II diabetes at age 50, and her mother died of the disease.

Type II diabetes is often linked to obesity and inactivity and can often be controlled with diet and exercise alone. Type II diabetics sometimes use insulin, but usually oral medications are prescribed if diet and exercise alone do not control the disease.

Malfunction in Glucose Metabolism

In a normal body, carbohydrates (sugars and starches) are broken down in the intestines to simple sugars (mostly glucose), which then circulate in the blood, entering cells, where they are used to produce energy. Diabetics respond inappropriately to carbohydrate metabolism, and glucose can't enter the cells normally.

Insulin -- a hormone that is made in the pancreas and released into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body -- enables the organs to take sugar from the blood and use it for energy. If body cells become resistant to insulin's effect or if there isn't enough insulin, sugar stays in the blood and accumulates, causing high blood sugar. At the same time, cells starve because there's no insulin to help move sugar into the cells.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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