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Diabetes: Don’t Sugar Coat It! By Our June Student Pharmacist, Brittany Roy.

According to 2010 statistics taken from the American Diabetes Association (ADA), Diabetes Mellitus was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and affected approximately 25.8 million Americans. This number increased to 29.1 million in 2012 and has continued to rise. Because of the long-term complications that can result from diabetes, it is important that patients are educated about what the disease is and how to recognize symptoms so that they know when to seek help from their doctor.

So let’s start by talking about what exactly is happening in the body when you have diabetes.

Insulin and sugar overview

Your body is entirely made up of individual working units called “cells.” These cells make up your skin, bones, blood, and organs that are responsible for keeping you alive. In order for the cells of your body to function properly, they need energy in the form of sugar. The food that you eat is changed into a type of sugar called “glucose,” which then travels in your blood stream to all of the different cells in your body to be utilized as energy. However, in order for this sugar to move from your blood into the cells, your body needs insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas. You can think of insulin as the “key” that unlocks the cells and allows glucose to enter.

In patients with Diabetes Mellitus, their body is either unable to produce enough insulin (most commonly associated with Type 1) or unable to properly utilize the insulin that it produces (Type 2). Because of this, cells remain “locked” and glucose (sugar) is unable to get in. This results in patients having too much glucose in their bloodstream (referred to as “hyperglycemia”) and not enough in their cells.

Consistently high blood glucose levels can cause damage to the blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys, and heart, and can also cause nerve damage. High glucose levels can also lead to slow wound healing, vision loss, kidney failure, stroke, heart attacks, numbness or tingling in your extremities or, in severe circumstances, amputation of extremities.

diabetes-symptomsIncluded is a diagram that shows symptoms associated with high levels of blood glucose. It is important to contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms so that you can be tested for diabetes.

While there is currently no cure for diabetes, proper control can help to reduce the chances of developing some of these complications. Most people will eventually end up having to use insulin injections in order to control their blood glucose levels. However, in addition to medication use, good control can also be achieved by lifestyle modifications involving proper nutrition and regular exercise.

This is a very brief overview of diabetes–it is simply too broad of a topic with too much information to include in one short blog post.

However, I hope that you at least now have a better understanding of what diabetes is and how to recognize it. For further questions, simply ask your doctor or pharmacist! Or you can check out the American Diabetes Association’s website. They have a ton of detailed and valuable information available in patient-friendly terms. Just follow the link: www.diabetes.org












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