Types of Diabetes and Managing Complications
More than 133 million Americans are living with either diabetes or prediabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how the body turns food into energy. Normally, the body breaks down most of the food we eat into sugar (glucose) and releases it into the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps the body absorb blood glucose. Diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to produce or absorb insulin. Over time, that excess blood glucose can cause serious health problems. The CDC’s Diabetes Feature is an excellent resource on different articles and videos related to living with diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, a person’s pancreas doesn’t produce insulin or makes very little insulin. This type of diabetes is the rarest, affecting only 5-10% of people with diabetes. It is frequently diagnosed in children or juveniles, but it can affect people of all ages. There is currently no known way to prevent this type of diabetes, but it can be managed by regularly managing blood sugar and following a doctor’s recommendations for a healthy lifestyle.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance. Cells don’t respond to insulin, and in response the pancreas increases insulin production. This causes blood sugar to rise to unhealthy levels that can cause damage to the body. Approximately 90-95% of people with diabetes have this type. It mostly affects people over the age of 45, but more and more younger people are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
The third type is gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a typically temporary insulin resistance in pregnancy, affecting 5-10% of pregnancies. It can usually be managed with diet and usually goes away after childbirth. However, up to 50% of those diagnosed with gestational diabetes will go on to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life.
While prevention is a good first goal, once you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it’s best to do everything you can to manage the condition. Long-term excess blood glucose levels can be harmful to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and teeth. It can also cause an increased risk of infections. People with diabetes need to be vigilant about managing the complications that the disease can cause. These complications include heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Managing Your Diabetes
The task of managing your diabetes will mostly be up to you, with support from your care team that may include a primary care provider, podiatrist, dietician, pharmacist, dentist and eye doctor. Here are some things you can do to manage your diabetes:
Test your blood sugar. Keep a record of the results of your blood tests so you can review the results with your doctor.
Follow your doctor’s orders. Whether you need insulin injections or medication, follow the plan your doctor recommends.
Reduce your stress. Stress can make managing your condition more difficult. Build some stress-busting habits into your routine. Go for a walk, do yoga, journal, meditate, or socialize to prevent and deal with stress.
Regularly monitor your feet and skin. About half of people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage. That nerve damage could prevent you from feeling a cut or blister that could turn into an infection. Regularly monitoring your skin will help prevent a small problem from becoming a bigger one.
Keep your kidneys healthy. Keep your blood sugar in range as much as possible. Detect high cholesterol by getting an A1C test every year. Eat foods low in sodium and get regular exercise.
Protect your ears. Nerve damage in your ears can cause hearing loss. Get regular hearing tests and talk with your doctor about medications that could affect your hearing and possible alternatives.
Practice proper oral health. Ask your doctor how often you should have your teeth checked. Practice good oral hygiene by brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily. If you have tooth pain, get it checked out as soon as you can.
It’s possible to live a full and healthy life with diabetes. Education and support can help you build healthy diabetes management habits. Your insurance may cover diabetic self-management and support services. You’re not alone, no matter what stage of diabetes you are in.
This holiday season, managing your complications from diabetes may sound unmanageable. Check out our past article on Holiday Tips for People with Diabetes.