Diabetes Mellitus, diabetes for short, is one of the diseases included in today’s epidemic of chronic diseases. It has been estimated that 8% of the world’s population is affected by this disease. What is alarming about the epidemic is the rapid growing trend among children. This is linked to the current epidemic of child obesity. There is an urgent need to improve on the public education, screening for the disease, treatment, management and care of persons living with diabetes. This is of utmost importance to reduce illness, disability and premature death.
What is Diabetes?
So we do know that diabetes is a metabolic disorder which, if not diagnosed early and managed properly, can be life-threatening. In persons with a healthy functioning pancreas (the organ which produces insulin), the body metabolizes and utilizes sugar efficiently. The insulin facilitates sugar crossing the cell barrier so that it can provide energy. In a diabetic child or adult, there is either little production of insulin or poor utilization of insulin by cells and tissue.
Types of Diabetes
- Type 1: formerly called Juvenile Diabetes. Insulin has to be administered.
- Type 2: formerly referred to as Adult Onset Diabetes, which is seen now in children. Tablets and sometimes insulin are both used for treatment.
- Gestational Diabetes is Pregnancy-induced Diabetes.
Know the First Signs of Diabetes
- Frequent urination which could lead to dehydration and thirst
- Weight loss, even though there could be increased appetite and hunger
- Nausea, Vomiting
- Skin issues which include infections or wounds that are difficult to heal
- Emotional & Behavior issues (mainly in young persons)
Poorly controlled diabetes over a period of time can cause damage to blood vessels and tissues. This can affect major target organs including the:
- Kidneys: Kidney failure
- Heart: Heart failure
- Lower limbs: Poor circulation, Gangrene
Available treatment Options and Advances in Technology
Diabetes is treatable with either injectable insulin for Type 1 Diabetes, oral medication or a combination of both oral medication and insulin. Oral medication is prescribed for Type 2 Diabetes.
Cellular Immune Therapy is a fairly new technology being used in some countries. Another promising technology is the transplantation of cells from the pancreas “islet cells”.
For the patient who has circulatory issues or high cholesterol, it is very helpful to have other medical conditions treated. Weight management (diet and exercise) must be a part of the treatment for obese diabetics.
Some diabetics have to be monitored throughout the day, seven days a week. For both Types 1 and 2 diabetics, monitoring may entail calculating blood glucose level several times for the day and self-administering or assisting the younger child to administer the insulin injections as prescribed by the doctor.
Efficient and effective diabetes management at home, school or work is aimed at achieving the following objectives:
- To keep the diabetic well and safe.
- To ensure that over the long term of the illness, the clinical outcome and health status is good.
- To facilitate the diabetic living optimally, making maximum use of the opportunity to participate in learning or activities in the work environment.
- To minimize the incidents of diabetes-related emergencies which are Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
Facing Diabetes with Optimism and Strength
For many of the chronic diseases, it is now well recognized that there is an important role and function for a support team. A diabetic support group will help you face the future with optimism and strength. There are affiliates of the Diabetes Association widely distributed for ease of access. Find out if there is a community group near you that offers this kind of support. There are also on-line support groups for those who find this convenient. It is also highly recommend that diabetic children have the experience and benefits of attending a diabetic camp for kids.
If you are living with diabetes, be encouraged that the advancements in medicine and healthcare have provided technology, improved pharmaceuticals, and increased the dietary choices to allow you to enjoy a high quality of life. Be reassured that if you are challenged with physical, emotional or financial obstacles, there is professional assistance.
We can all be inspired by diabetic actors, athletes, public figures and everyday persons who have shared their stories of challenges and triumph.
Remember, if you still have questions or concerns, please browse our diabetes question and answer directory or ask a doctor your own medical question for free on www.askthedoctor.com.