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  • Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which our body is unable to handle the sugar in food properly and convert it into energy needed for normal activity
  • When we eat sugars and cereals, the body changes them into glucose. The glucose circulates in the bloodstream for immediate use or is stored in the liver as glycogen for future use. In diabetes, the regulatory mechanism for glucose in the blood is inefficient. As a result glucose goes on accumulating to dangerous levels, causing distressing symptoms as well as destroying vital organs
  • This build-up occurs either because the body does not have enough insulin (a hormone secreted from the pancreas that regulates the glucose level in the blood) or because the insulin is not fully effective on body tissues.
  • Diabetes tends to run in families, but factors other than heredity are responsible as well. For example, becoming overweight can trigger diabetes in susceptible older people.
  • There are two main types of diabetes. Type I, or insulin-dependent diabetes which is the more severe form of the disease, generally starts during childhood or adolescence. Life-long treatment with insulin is required along with exercise and a controlled diet.
  • However, the commonest form of diabetes and the one which affects the older people is Type II, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
  • Recent research has shown that blood glucose levels may rise progressively normally with age.
  • Most people with Type II diabetes do not need insulin injections. They can usually keep their blood glucose levels near-normal by controlling their weight, by exercising, and following a sensible diet or taking anti-diabetes pills.
  • People with diabetes feel “run down” and may have symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, skin infections or itching, and slow-healing cuts and bruises. These problems should be reported promptly to a doctor, who may detect sugar in the urine or too much of it in the blood. Sometimes there may not be any symptom and the disease is only detected during routine testing for unrelated problems, for example, surgery.
  • There are several long-term complications such as stroke, blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, gangrene and nerve damage which can also result from diabetes. Most experts believe that proper blood glucose control will help prevent or lessen these problems
  • Blood glucose levels that are either very high or very low can lead to serious medical emergencies. Diabetics may lapse into coma when their blood sugar levels get very high or very low. People who have diabetes must know the warning signs of these two conditions and what to do if they occur.
  • Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Good control requires a careful blend of diet, exercise, and , if necessary, insulin or oral drugs
  • Diet planning is vitally important to lowering blood glucose levels. In planning a diet, the doctor considers the patient’s weight and the amount of physical activity he or she engages in each day. For overweight patients, a weight-reducing plan is essential to achieving proper blood glucose control.
  • Exercise is also important because it helps the body burn some of the excess glucose as energy. A doctor can help plan an exercise programme that balances the diet and medication needs of the patient with his or her general health. It is important to be consistent, exercising about the same amount each day.
  • Drugs (insulin injection or oral tablets) are needed when good control of blood sugars cannot be achieved through diet and exercise. Sometimes a patient who normally does well without drugs will need one on a short-term basis during an acute illness or infection.
  • Proper foot care is essential for people with diabetes, since the disease can cut down the blood supply to the feet and reduce feeling. Diabetics should examine their feet everyday for any sores, blisters, breaks in the skin, infections, or build-up of calluses, which should be reported immediately to the family doctor.
  • Diabetics are less able to resist infection than others. They should protect their skin against injury, keep it clean, use skin softeners to treat dryness, and take care of minor cuts and bruises.
  • Diabetes is a common cause of blindness in advancing years and this can only be prevented by annual eye check-ups by an eye specialist.
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