Managing Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

  • Diabetes mellitus is a medical condition associated with abnormally high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood stream.
  • Glucose comes from the digestion of starchy food items such as bread, rice, potatoes, chapattis and from sugar from sweet food items.
  • Normally, blood glucose levels are controlled by insulin, a chemical that is produced by the pancreas.
  • Insulin plays a vital role in lowering the blood glucose level.
  • When the amount of glucose in the blood stream increases, the pancreas release insulin in order to normalize the glucose level.
  • In the case of those who suffer from diabetes, the elevated levels of glucose in the blood stream cannot be normalized either due to the complete absence of insulin or due to insufficient amounts of insulin.
  • This results in abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood stream, ultimately leading to glycosuria (presence of glucose in the urine).

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes mellitus also called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile-onset diabetes mellitus

  • This type of diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them.
  • As a result of this, the body is unable to produce insulin.
  • These patients are entirely reliant on treatment via insulin for their survival.
  • This type of diabetes generally begins in childhood or adolescence.
  • Approximately 5-10% of diabetics suffer from Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 2Diabetes mellitus

  • It is the common type of diabetes and usually begins in adulthood.
  • It develops when the body can still produce insulin, but not in enough quantities.
  • This form of diabetes generally strikes at the age of around 35-40.
  • This condition can only be kept under control, not reversed.

How serious is Diabetes?

  • The early symptoms of untreated diabetes are generally associated with elevated blood glucose levels.
  • This ultimately results in increased urination (especially in the night), which leads to dehydration and increased thirst.
  • Other symptoms include extreme tiredness, weight loss, excessive hunger, blurred vision, itchy skin and repeated infections such as boils and rash.

Complications arising as a result of diabetes:

  • Blood vessel damage within the eye, causing blurred vision and ultimately resulting in blindness.
  • Kidney damage/failure.
  • Nerve damage, especially of the hands and the feet.
  • Narrowing of the blood vessels due to fatty deposits.

Who can get diabetes?

  • If you’re over the age of 45
  • If you’re overweight
  • If you have a family history of diabetes
  • If you have high cholesterol levels and/or high blood pressure
  • If you have had gestational diabetes (during pregnancy)
  • If you lead a sedentary lifestyle
  • If you exercise less than 3 times a week

Symptoms of Diabetes:

  • Feeling perennially tired
  • Feeling perennially irritated
  • Urinating more than usual
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive hunger pangs
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Wounds don’t heal
  • Tingling/numbness/burning in the feet or hands


  • Treatment of diabetes is aimed at controlling the elevated blood glucose without causing an abnormally low glucose level.
  • A healthy diet should be consumed that is high in fibre and low on fat.
  • Blood glucose levels should be regularly monitored.

New treatment options

  • Insulin pens: These devices are easy to use and relatively painless. It is administered in the form of an injection (of insulin) and can be easily carried around even while travelling.
  • Insulin spray: In this case, insulin is inhaled in the form of a spray through aerosol inhalers.
  • Insulin pumps: This is a pager-sized device that delivers insulin in small amounts through the day. It is a small, painless cannula that is inserted under the skin.
  • Pancreas transplant and Islet cell transplant: Though these surgeries have been tried in Western countries, their long-term effects are still awaited.
  • Stem cell therapy: This again is a new form of treatment and holds a lot of promise.

Side effects of diabetes treatment:

  • Some people tend to be allergic to the drugs prescribed.
  • Some people also suffer from gaseous distension, flatulence and/or stomach upset due to the medicines prescribed.
  • A serious side effect of the medicines prescribed to treat diabetes is ‘hypoglycaemia’.

It generally affects those who suffer from diabetes and is caused by the medication prescribed. If left untreated, it can lead to loss of consciousness.

Causes of hypoglycaemia:

  • Meals or snacks that are too small delayed or skipped
  • Excessive doses of insulin or other diabetic medication
  • Increased activity or exercise
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol

Symptoms of hypoglycaemia

  • Hunger
  • Nervousness or shakiness
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Excessive sleeping and confusion
  • Difficulty in speech
  • Feeling anxious/weak/nervous
  • Dizziness/light-headedness

Preventing hypoglycaemia

  • Balanced meal
  • Regular exercise
  • Consumption of diabetic medication at the right time
  • Cut down on alcohol consumption

Treatment of hypoglycaemia

  • If your blood sugar level falls, immediately consume glucose, candy, fruit, honey or a cup of milk in order to raise your blood sugar level.
  • After 15 minutes, check your blood glucose level to ensure it is stable.
  • If you take insulin or any form of diabetic medication, always carry one of these quick-fix food items with you.
  • In addition to this, wearing a medical identification card stating your diabetic status is a good idea.

Measures to keep diabetes under control:

  • Check your blood sugar levels often
  • Get a blood test called ‘haemoglobin A1C’done
  • Monitor your cholesterol/lipids profile
  • Monitor your blood pressure
  • Get an eye check-up done on a regular basis
  • Get routine check-up’s done to check for nerve damage.
  • Eat healthy and exercise regularly.