Healthcare Triage: Treating Diabetes
Diabetes is a medical condition affecting the metabolic system. It causes increases the level of blood sugar. This disease hampers the production of the hormone insulin, responsible for moving sugar from the blood into cells. The cells then convert that sugar into energy or store it for future use.
An estimated 30.2 million people over the age of 18 in the United States have some form of diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. This number corresponds to about 27.9 to 32.7 percent of the population.
The bodies of people who have diabetes are unable to make enough insulin or fail to use the amount it does make effectively. If high blood sugar remains untreated for a long time, it can damage the eyes, nerves, kidneys, and other organs. Diabetes can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Types of diabetes
There are various kinds of diabetes, and the management of each one is different. Some might occur due to the excess weight of a person, while other types of diabetes can be genetic or might be present from childhood.
The different types of diabetes include:
Type I diabetes
It is an autoimmune disease, also called juvenile diabetes. This condition occurs when the immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys the cells, which results in the body failing to produce the required amount of insulin.
People with this kind of diabetes need a regular supply of insulin to remain functional. Only about 10 percent of the people affected with diabetes have this type of disease.
Type II diabetes
This condition changes the way the body uses insulin. The bodies of people having this type of diabetes become resistant to insulin, which increases the buildup of blood sugar.
Unlike type I, the body does produce insulin; it is the cells that do not respond to it as efficiently as before, which results in the problem of increased blood sugar. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive & Kidney Diseases suggests that this form of diabetes is the most common and has strong links with obesity.
This condition usually occurs in pregnant women. The placenta can produce hormones that block insulin, which might result in this type of diabetes. Not all women experience this condition, and generally, the issue preloves after giving birth.
It is the condition in which a person’s blood sugar is higher than the average level, but it might not be high enough for a diagnosis of type II diabetes. Doctors diagnose this condition in the people who have blood sugar in the range of 100 to 125 milligram per deciliter.
It is between the standard and type II level of sugar, as the average sugar level is between 70 to 99 mg/dL, whereas people with type II diabetes have a blood sugar of 126 mg/dL or higher. People with this condition are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of diabetes
Not every person experiences all the symptoms of diabetes. The intensity of these symptoms also varies from person to person. Some of the common signs of diabetes can include the following:
- Weight loss
- Blurry vision
- Sores that don’t heal
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Extreme fatigue
- Increased thirst
In addition to these signs, men can also experience other symptoms, such as decreased sex drive, reduced muscle strength, or erectile dysfunction (ED). In comparison, women can face symptoms like urinary tract infections, yeast infection, and dry & itchy skin.
Most women who have gestational diabetes don’t experience any symptoms. Their condition usually gets detected during a routine blood sugar test, which the doctors typically perform after 24th and before the 28th week of gestation. In a few cases, women with gestational diabetes might experience increased thirst or urination.
What are the causes of diabetes?
The reason why someone might have diabetes is that their body either does not produce the required amount of insulin, or it is unable to use the insulin it does have efficiently.
Causes of type 1 diabetes
The exact reasons for this condition are unknown. It stems from a defect in the immune system as it destroys the beta cells responsible for producing insulin by attacking the pancreas. This act leaves the person with little or no insulin, restricting the transfer of sugar from the blood to cells and increasing the level of blood sugar.
Researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental facts contribute to the development of this condition. However, what those factors are is still not clear.
Causes of type 2 diabetes
This condition can be a result of a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. Excess body weight, especially in the belly, significantly increase the chances of a person developing type 2 diabetes.
The extra weight in the body can make the cells more resistant to insulin, which, in turn, increases the blood sugar level. The genes of a person can also increase the chances of a person developing this condition as type 2 diabetes usually runs in the family.
Causes of gestational diabetes
This disease is a result of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. The placenta produces hormones that block the effects of insulin, which reduces the efficiency of the transfer of sugar from the blood to cells.
This condition is also more likely to occur in women who are overweight or gain excessive weight during pregnancy.
Treatment for diabetes
The treatment options vary according to the type of diabetes a person has. The doctor will prescribe the medication according to the kind of condition.
Type 1 diabetes
The best treatment is injecting insulin into the body, which can fulfill the needs that the body is unable to by itself.
The following are the most commonly used types of insulin. The primary difference between these is how quickly they can start working and how long their effects last:
- Rapid-acting insulin begins working within 15 minutes, and its effects can last up to 3 to 4 hours.
- Short-acting insulin starts to show its effects within 30 minutes, and the results can last from 6 to 8 hours.
- Intermediate-acting insulin: a person can begin to experience the results within 1 to 2 hours, and the effects can last 12 to 18 hours.
- Long-acting insulin takes a few hours to show its effects, which can last for 24 hours or more.
Type 2 diabetes
The doctor can recommend diet and exercise for people with type 2 diabetes. If the blood sugar level does not improve even after incorporating the recommended lifestyle changes, the doctor will prescribe some medications.
Following medicines help lower the blood sugar level:
- DPP-4 inhibitors
- Glucagon-like peptides
- SGLT2 inhibitors
The doctor might recommend one or more drugs to decrease the blood sugar level in type 2 diabetes patients.
This type of diabetes typically lasts for a short period, i.e., for the duration of pregnancy. Doctors recommend dietary changes and some exercise to combat the effects of this condition. Only around 10 to 20 percent of women with this condition require insulin to lower the blood sugar.
How to prevent diabetes?
You cannot prevent type 1 diabetes as it is a result of a problem with the immune system that has an unknown origin. Type 2 diabetes is also not entirely preventable as part of the problem stems from factors like genes or age, not under anyone’s control.
While people cannot manage the uncontrollable factors, they can make sure to control the manageable factors. Making simple adjustments to your routine, like eating healthy or doing regular exercise, can significantly impact your overall health and lower the chances of developing diabetes.
People who have prediabetes can do the following things to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes:
- Include more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits in your diet.
- Eat foods which contain low calories and fat and have higher fiber content.
- Try to get a minimum of 3 hours per week of aerobic exercises such as cycling or walking.
- Try to eat smaller portions.
- If you have excess weight or are obese, try to lose at least 7 percent of your body weight.
- Reduce the consumption of trans and saturated fats along with refined carbohydrates.
Keeping body weight in a healthy range can be a great way to reduce the chances of diabetes. However, do not try to lose weight during pregnancy.
Consult with a doctor how much weight you should lose to maintain a healthy body without experience any adverse effects of weight loss.
Though these techniques might work for some people, remember that often medication is the only way to improve your condition. If you think that you may have diabetes, don’t ignore it, reach out to a healthcare professional, and get proper treatment.