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Diabetes: The Basics

Understanding Diabetes

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Diabetes: The Basics

Diabetes affects over 29 million people in the United States and nearly one-third of these people don’t know they have the disease.

89 million people (more than 1 out of 3) have pre diabetes and 9 out of 10 do not know it

Now that you know

Finding out you have diabetes can be difficult to handle emotionally. You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information available. You just want to know the best practices for you to be healthy. Like most issues with your health, it is important to stay positive. With knowledge and a plan, you can successfully manage your diabetes and go on to live a happy and healthy life.

What is Diabetes?

If you have been told that you have diabetes, it is important to understand the disease. People with diabetes have higher than normal blood sugar levels. To understand what causes your blood sugar level to be high, you must understand how your body breaks down food for fuel. Your intestines break down the food you eat into sugar. This sugar is carried by the bloodstream to your body’s cells. To help your cells absorb the sugar, a gland organ in your body called the pancreas makes a hormone called insulin. The insulin is carried by the bloodstream to assist in the body’s cells absorption of sugar for energy.

Diabetes is a disease causing low levels of insulin in the bloodstream. The pancreas of people with diabetes makes little or no insulin. Some people with diabetes are also resistant to the insulin their pancreas does produce, which in turn prevents the body’s cells from absorbing enough sugar for energy.

The risk factors for diabetes include:

  • Excess body weight
  • Age
  • Family history
  • Ethnic background: African American, Hispanic, Native 
  • Low activity level
  • High fat, high calorie diet
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • History of diabetes during pregnancy
  • Given birth to baby weighing more than 9 pounds

Managing Your Diabetes

To live a healthy life, it is important to understand how to manage your diabetes. You can control your blood sugar levels with meal planning, exercise, medicine (if necessary) and visits with your diabetes care team. Your doctor or diabetes care team member will help you decide what blood sugar target range you should try to stay within. In order to maintain good control, you should monitor your blood sugar levels regularly and according to your doctor’s or diabetes care team member’s direction.

Your Diabetes Care Team

To properly manage your diabetes, it is important for you to work closely with the members of your diabetes care team. Some healthcare professionals who are a part of your diabetes care team and may help you with your treatment plan include:

  • Primary Care Doctors
  • Endocrinologists
  • Registered Dieticians
  • Educators and Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • CMSI – Your Diabetes Testing Supply and Education Partner
  • Other members of your diabetes care team may include: Ophthalmologists, Podiatrists, Cardiologists, Gastroenterologists, Urologists, Nephrologists, Neurologists, Obstetricians/Gynecologists, Psychologists, and Social Workers

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Characteristics of People Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes:

  • Body makes no insulin
  • Not overweight (slender)
  • Quick start of symptoms
  • Increased urination, thirst, and appetite
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Positive urine test done by doctor
  • 10% of all Americans with diabetes
  • Usually diagnosed under 35 years of age

Characteristics of People Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Body does not make enough insulin or makes insulin the body cannot use
  • Usually overweight
  • Slow start of symptoms or no symptoms at all
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-to-heal cuts
  • Tingling or numbness in hands/feet
  • Recurring skin, mouth, or bladder infections
  • Increased urination, thirst, and appetite
  • 90% of all Americans with diabetes
  • Usually diagnosed over 40 years of age (diagnosis in 
children and teens increasing rapidly)

Standards of Care

The American Diabetes Association has established Standards of Care for the treatment of people with diabetes and other diseases/conditions. Standards of Care provide standardized guidelines about treatment. It is important for you to know what you and your diabetes care team should be doing to properly manage your diabetes. 
The following list of exams and periodic lab tests will help you keep your diabetes in check and prevent or delay the long-term health problems associated with diabetes:


  • Self-monitoring of blood sugar (at least 2x/day)
  • Make healthy food decisions
  • Take medications if prescribed for diabetes control and 
blood pressure
  • Take baby aspirin (if doctor advises)
  • Get some regular exercise and activity
  • Check eyes, feet, skin for changes
  • Brush teeth after meals
  • Avoid smoking


  • Visit with doctor
  • A1C test (every three months if previous value was 
above normal range)
  • Blood pressure check
  • Foot exam (socks off)
  • Review of blood sugar self-monitoring records
  • Review diabetes self-care skills
  • Weight check
  • Review of all medications


  • Visit with doctor
  • A1C test (unnecessary if previous quarterly value was 
  • Blood pressure check
  • Foot exam (socks off)
  • Review of blood sugar self-monitoring records
  • Weight check
  • Review of all medications


  • Visit with doctor
  • Screening urine (micro-albumin) level (and as needed)
  • Screening lipid (cholesterol) pro le (and as needed)
  • Foot exam with sensation check
  • Immunizations, including u shot
  • Routine EKG
  • Ongoing self-care education
  • Counsel on pregnancy planning (if needed)

Your healthy goals

Staying Healthy

By staying as close to your recommended blood sugar target range as possible, you can lower your risk of long-term complications related to your diabetes. Diabetes studies have shown that blood sugar control can reduce eye, kidney, and nerve disease resulting from diabetes by 50%. By improving your blood sugar control, you will reduce your risk of developing these complications.

To ensure that you are doing everything possible to stay healthy, review the following with your diabetes care team members

  • Feet exam – At each visit
  • High and low blood sugar test results – At each visit or 
as needed
  • Blood sugar target range goal – At each visit or as 
  • Meal plan – At each visit or as needed
  • Glycosylated hemoglobin A1C levels – Quarterly
  • Cholesterol and triglycerides – Every 6 months
  • Urine micro-albumin or protein levels – Annually

What You Should Know 

Understand what diabetes is and how it may affect you. Your doctor and diabetes care team members will help you develop a plan to control your diabetes and live a healthy life.

What You Should Do

As you begin to manage your diabetes, the most important areas are:

  • Understand your goals
  • Proper meal planning
  • Be active every day
  • Monitor your blood sugar daily
  • Brush and floss your teeth
  • Take your medications (when prescribed)
  • Check your feet
  • Visit your doctor quarterly
  • Visit your dentist annually
  • Visit your eye doctor annually

Discovering that you have diabetes can be emotional. However, learning about the disease and how you can manage it is helpful to many with diabetes. Once you have an understanding of how this disease affects your body, you can work together with your diabetes care team professionals to establish the best treatment plan for you. To determine the effects of this treatment plan, you and your diabetes care team should closely monitor your condition. Through regular blood sugar testing, routine exams, and lab tests, you can successfully manage your diabetes.

You are not alone in this challenge. With the support of your diabetes care team, you can live a healthy and happy life with diabetes.

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Managing Diabetes

Discovering that you have Diabetes can be overwhelming and challenging news for many people.

Keep in mind that this condition affects individuals of all ages and races. Many people are born with the disease, and other people develop it later in life.

You are not alone managing diabetes. Take a deep breath and decide to take control of your diabetes, instead of allowing it to take control of you.

Incorporating exercise into your day, changing your eating habits and learning how to monitor your glucose levels will enable you to live a healthy and productive life.

You can also make sure you get adequate sleep and reducing any stress will also help to keep your blood sugar in check. These can be monumental lifestyle changes for some individuals.

Be patient with yourself. Do not try to overhaul everything on the first day. Knowledge is power. The more calm and open-minded you can stay while you educate yourself about this new condition, the better off you and your loved ones will be.

Risk Factors For Diabetes and How To Be Proactive

Understanding the risk factors of Diabetes will help you understand what kind of preventative measures you can take in reducing the associated risks that accompany this condition.

Many people learn how to listen to their bodies with this disease. Often it provides the wake-up call a person needs about some much needed lifestyle changes.

Other people, however, may go into denial about their condition. They may even rebel and decide not to take their medicine on time, or not to make time to check their blood sugar levels.

These individuals often suffer dire consequences as a result.

Instead of managing their disease, they allow it to progress and may end up dealing with numerous other health problems. Choose to be proactive and as healthy as you can be. It is never too late to start making positive choices.


Obesity is the largest risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes. Unfortunately, obesity is considered to be at pandemic levels in many countries.

This abundance of excess weight causes a lot of stress on the entire body. The joints, the cardiovascular system and the internal organs are all affected.

Many studies have been done to determine why obese people have a higher tendency to develop Diabetes.

One theory shows that abnormal glucose output is actually increased in obese people and the pancreas has a difficult time responding with the required amount of insulin.

It is possible to deal with obesity in a healthy manner. Start with small changes in your daily routine. Park your car at the farthest point from work or the store and increase your daily steps.

Take the stairs whenever possible. Keep raw veggies in a bowl of water in the fridge for a nutritious go-to snack.

Drink a glass of water before every meal to help convince your body that you feel fuller faster. Visit with a dietician who specializes in Diabetes and learn some new recipes!

Sedentary Lifestyle

A sedentary or low activity lifestyle is another common diabetic risk factor. Keeping active and staying on your feet increases your blood flow and promotes healthy circulation.

If you sit at your desk all day, make time to stretch and get some fresh air during lunch and coffee breaks.

Are in the habit of watching TV after supper? How about choosing to go for an evening walk around the block instead? These small changes will have a positive impact on your overall health.

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Introduction to Diabetes

If you are, or think you may be, a diabetic and you feel like you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms mentioned in this article, please seek medical advice.

This article is not medical advice.

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes is a condition that results in high blood sugar (glucose) levels in the body. When the pancreas does not secrete enough insulin, high blood sugar levels result.

This may occur for one of two reasons: either the pancreas is not making enough insulin or the cells are unresponsive to the insulin that is being produced. Excess glucose in the blood is eliminated in the urine via the kidneys.

Insulin, a peptide hormone, is produced by the beta cells in our pancreas and is responsible for helping certain cells in the body absorb glucose or blood sugar and convert it into energy. Therefore, insulin is crucial in regulating fat and carbohydrate metabolism within our body.

Once control of insulin levels fail, the blood glucose or blood sugar level in the body can reach dangerously high levels, and Diabetes mellitus can result. This disease is considered to be a chronic disorder of carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.

If left untreated, this condition can have detrimental effects to your level of well-being. Many vital organs, including the heart and your circulatory system, the kidneys and the eyes may be adversely affected.

Symptoms of Diabetes

There are 3 classical symptoms of Diabetes, which may be remembered as the 3P’s:

1. Polydipsia or frequent thirst,
2. Polyuria or frequent urination and
3. Polyphagia or frequent hunger.

Additional symptoms to be aware of include:

• Severe weight loss or emaciation can occur despite being excessively hungry
• Skin ulcers that appear anywhere on the body and are slow to heal
• Weakness
• Boils
• Loss of tactile sensation in the fingertips
• In women, there may be itching of the vulvae present
• In men there may be inflammation of the glans penis.

Having continually elevated levels of blood glucose can cause changes in the shape of the lens in the eye, due to glucose absorption in the lens itself. This can result in vision changes and many people complain of blurred vision prior to being diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetic dermadromes is a term describing a collective number of cutaneous conditions of the skin that are also commonly experienced by patients who have had Diabetes for some time.

Different Types of Diabetes

There are 3 main kinds of Diabetes mellitus: Type 1 DM, Type 2 DM and Gestational Diabetes. Other kinds of Diabetes mellitus include: Cystic Fibrosis related diabetes, different kinds of Monogenic Diabetes, Congenital Diabetes due to genetic defects of insulin production and Steroid Diabetes, induced through high doses of glucocorticoids.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

This type of Diabetes requires daily insulin injections or wearing an insulin pump to regulate levels.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Type 2 DM, results from an insulin resistance. In this condition, the cells fail to use the insulin produced by the pancreas correctly. This condition may also be combined with a complete insulin deficiency in some cases.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes is a form that occurs in pregnant women. Often there is no previous diagnosis of diabetes and the high blood glucose level may return to normal after delivery.

In some cases, this may precede development of Type 2 DM; however, many women only require medication and monitoring for the duration of their pregnancy.

If you are, or think you may be, a diabetic and you feel like you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms mentioned in this article, please seek medical advice.

This article is not medical advice.

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Hyperglycemia vs. Hypoglycemia

If you are, or think you may be, a diabetic and you feel like you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms mentioned in this article, please seek medical advice.

This article on hyperglycemia vs. hypoglycemia is not medical advice.

Diabetic Hyperglycemia (also spelled Hyperglycaemia)

Hyperglycaemia refers to having abnormally high blood sugar. The prefix “hyper” translates to “high.” The main symptoms of this condition include extreme thirst or polydipsia and frequent urination or polyuria.

Hyperglycaemia is a symptom that occurs in both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.

In a healthy functioning system, the pancreas normally releases insulin after a meal to enable the cells of the body to utilize glucose for energy. In a non-diabetic, this fluctuation keeps glucose levels in a healthy range.

However with diabetes, the blood sugar levels become severely elevated. This can result in a medical emergency such as HHNS or hyperglycemia hyperosmolar state. Diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA can also be another severe consequence that can result from the body trying to cope with too much glucose.

Symptoms and Signs of Hyperglycemia

Diabetes is the main cause of hyperglycaemia; however, there are other medical conditions that may cause this condition to present including: Pancreatitis, Hyperthyroidism, Pancreatic cancer, Cushing’s syndrome, unusual tumors that secrete hormones, severe illnesses and certain medications.

The long term effects of hyperglycemia can be quite dramatic. Often, these issues develop slowly over a period of years, especially in diabetics who are not effectively managing their health properly.

Some key complications include: heart and blood vessel disease, which can increase the risk of peripheral artery disease, stroke, and heart attack. Nerve damage is another potential problem that can lead to tingling, pain and burning sensations. Gum disease and eye diseases including damage to the retina, cataracts and glaucoma are also prevalent.

Diabetic Hypoglycemia (also spelled Hypoglycaemia)

Hypoglycemia on the other hand, is a medical emergency of diminished blood glucose or excessively low blood sugar. The prefix “hypo” translates to “low.” Also referred to as “Hyperinsulinism,” low blood sugar levels result from overstimulation of insulin in the pancreas.

The pancreas eventually becomes exhausted from releasing insulin too frequently in order to combat the high levels of sugar present in the blood.

Symptoms and Signs of Hypoglycemia

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia can vary greatly, however, the main concern are issues arising from an inadequate supply of glucose to the brain.

Hypoglycemic manifestations can be divided into the following: Adrenergic manifestations due to falling glucose; lack of glucose in the brain resulting in neuroglycopenic symptoms; and glucagon manifestations.

Neuroglycopenic effects due to a shortage of glucose in the brain can cause a severe impairment of function, known as neuroglycopenia.

Neuroglycopenic symptoms can range from dizziness, tiredness, weakness, blurred vision, confusion and difficulty concentrating. Inappropriate behavior can also occur that may be mistaken for intoxication. In severe cases, seizures, unconsciousness, coma and even death can occur.

Many people consider themselves to be “Hypoglycemic.” Typically, these individuals are referring to symptoms triggered by falling glucose adrenergic manifestations.

This condition may present with anxiety, shakiness, coldness, dilated pupils, nervousness, tachycardia or rapid heartbeat and palpitations. Paresthesia or feeling of “pins and needles” or numbness is also commonly experienced. Immediately consuming some orange juice or candy can usually remedy this uncomfortable situation.

Glucagon manifestations of hypoglycemia may present with the following: abdominal discomfort; vomiting; hunger, stomach rumbling or borborygmus and headache.

There are some great ways you can be proactive with your diet and eating habits. Becoming educated on the glycemic index and starting to read food labels are great places to start.

Try some new recipes and think positive about re-learning your relationship with food.

If you are, or think you may be, a diabetic and you feel like you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms mentioned in this article, please seek medical advice.

This article on hyperglycemia vs. hypoglycemia is not medical advice.

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Diabetic Apps and Online Resources

Remembering to check your glucose levels and monitoring your blood sugar can be challenging for many diabetics.

Thankfully, there are a variety of smartphone, iPad and iPod Touch Apps or applications that you can download to help educate you on your journey with diabetes.

Some of these apps offer reminder alarms for taking medication or for checking blood glucose levels. There are other apps available that will monitor your exercise and your carbohydrate intake and offer built in medical terminology explanations. Other applications have suggestions for exercise, meals and tracking net carbs along with overall calorie intake.

Many of these apps offer comprehensive tools for either Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetics.

For example, users of practically any age can organize all of their data such as: medications, insulin, test, diet, and glucose etc. required to improve and manage their condition. Many people utilize the ability to generate reports and graphs that can be shared via email with their healthcare professionals or printed out and logged at home.

Online Resources

There are a variety of free online tools available to help diabetics manage their health. Logbooks that can help keep track of medication intake, exercise regimes, blood pressure and glucose levels are often useful to help users track inputs and outputs and identify trends in their daily routine.

Community support combined with collaborative sharing to improve health and motivate positive changes are additional beneficial online tools.

Many glucometers come with a cord or have one available for purchase that will enable you to download information directly onto your computer. Speak with your doctor and local pharmacist to see what type of meter they recommend. Do some research and ask around.

Check in with your health insurance provider as many will cover your glucometer or test strips or at least a portion of your supplies.

Online Support Groups

Feeling angry, guilty or in denial about having diabetes is commonly experienced by many individuals after they are diagnosed. You may find support from diabetes groups online. If you are having difficulty dealing with the stress, speak with your doctor as they may be able to help you.

As well as online support groups there are often local support groups that can be a great place to connect with others who are dealing with similar issues. Your doctor can refer you to a dietician and a counsellor if needed too.