Learning How to Live with Diabetes

Learning How to Live with Diabetes

A dozen people, some of whom have diabetes and others, whose relatives have it, came to listen to Maureen Williams, RN, a Certified Diabetes Educator from Bayonne Medical Center, at the program held in the Federal Documents Department of the Main Library on Wednesday afternoon, January 25, 2012. Using all of her 25 years’ experience, Nurse Williams described the basics of diabetes – what the disorder is, and how best to manage it – concluding with conducting a spirited Q&A, engaging and educating all those who came to hear her speak.

Though diabetes comes in two main forms, Type I and Type II, it’s the second one that affects from 90-95 percent of Americans today, mostly developing in middle-aged and older adults whose lives are complicated by obesity and physical inactivity. Type I, often termed ‘juvenile diabetes’, develops early in life, whereby the person needs to inject the insulin that the body is missing since the pancreas doesn’t make enough of it.

Type II diabetes is a malfunction of the body’s ability to use insulin. There are two ways that can happen: the body’s pancreas pumps insulin into the bloodstream but the cells either don’t recognize it or use it well, which is called ‘insulin resistance’, or when the body has had enough of that malfunction, and stops producing insulin altogether.

Insulin is a hormone that helps the body create energy from glucose, which is another name for the sugar coming from the foods we eat.

A third type of diabetes, ‘gestational diabetes’, occurs during a woman’s pregnancy, with a 50:50 chance of it going away after birth. It is advisable for the woman with that occurrence, however, to have her physician monitor her health for Type II diabetes afterward.

Please note, ‘borderline diabetes’ is the older term used for ‘pre-diabetes’, and was not considered a real diagnosis at that time. Now pre-diabetes is considered a valid disease, with its own set of characteristics. Pre-diabetes is diagnosed when blood sugars are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diabetes. Simple lifestyle changes at this point may prevent a person from getting diabetes.

Whether one’s diabetes is insulin-dependent and managed with medication, or is managed by diet and exercise alone, a person needs to be vigilant in the following ways:

Keep a close eye on the feet – As a diabetic, you may have poor circulation (blood flow) or numbness and tingling in your feet. This means you are more likely to develop infections or other foot problems. You need to take special care of your feet every day.

Give up smoking now! – Smoking can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other conditions that can put you at greater risk for complications for diabetes. If you smoke, try to quit.

Controlling your diabetes through medication, diet and exercise is important because major complications occur when the body has to deal with an over-abundance of sugar in the bloodstream:

Heart Disease – People with diabetes are 5 times more likely to have a stroke and 2 to 4 times more likely to have coronary artery disease.

Kidney Disease – Having diabetes makes people 20 times more likely to have kidney failure. To prevent kidney problems, keep your blood pressure under control, promptly treat urinary-tract problems, and report any swelling in your hand or feet. Drink 2 quarts (64 oz.) of water or non-caffeinated, non-caloric fluids per day. Have your urine checked for protein at least once a year.

Eye Problems – People with diabetes are 4 times more likely to become blind. High blood sugar can cause blood vessels in your eyes to leak (called diabetic retinopathy). You are also at higher risk for cataracts, glaucoma, and macular problems.

Infections of the Skin – High blood sugar lowers the immune system. You may be more prone to boils and ulcers, vaginal infections, and slow-healing cuts. Bathe daily and dry yourself thoroughly, then use a moisturizing cream to protect your skin. Wash and bandage cuts promptly. Watch for changes in your skin or cuts that don’t heal. Report them to your healthcare provider.

Gum Disease – Gum disease, swollen gums, and mouth infections are common in people with diabetes. Brush after every meal and floss daily. See your dentist for a checkup every 3-6 months.

Information taken from the booklet, Living with Diabetes, provided by Bayonne Medical Center

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