Diabetes is what happens when your pancreas stops doing what it’s supposed to do. Normally, when we eat food, our bodies convert it into sugars (glucose.) This is when the pancreas would release insulin so that the sugar can be correctly absorbed into our cells. Insulin is the hormone responsible for “unlocking” cells to allow glucose to enter.
When things start to go wrong with this process, it causes the onset of diabetes. However, not all diabetes are the same. As well as the most common forms; Type 1 and Type 2, there is also what’s known as gestational diabetes (which occurs during pregnancy,) and other, rarer forms of the disease.
Afflicting more that 380 million people worldwide, this serious illness is claiming increasing numbers of sufferers every day. Since 2006, the number of diagnosed patients with diabetes has doubled, and is predicted to increase a further 50% throughout the next decade.
Without swift and proper treatment, diabetes can be fatal. The condition alone kills more people than breast cancer and AIDS combined. The long-term complications can result in blindness, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and necessary amputation of lower limbs.
Diabetes – the symptoms
- Sudden changes in vision
- Extreme thirst
- Increased appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Laboured breathing
- Frequent urination
- Sugar in urine
- Sweet / fruity or wine-like odour on breath
- Reoccurring infections (cause by the increase of yeast and bacteria in the body)
- Sores that heal slowly
- Dry, itchy skin
- Getting pins and needles in your feet / foot pain or losing feeling in them entirely.
Signs of low blood sugar, whether diabetic or not
- Rapid pulse rate
- Pale, moist skin
- Shallow breathing
- Extreme hunger
- Confusion/unable to focus/loss of coordination
- Loss of consciousness
10 million people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year. If you think you are at risk GET TESTED.
This is the transition stage between having normal blood sugar, and being diabetic. When blood glucose is above normal, but not elevated enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, you’re still at great risk. Lifestyle changes are essential for lowering these levels back to normal without taking medication. Sometimes, people might not experience any symptoms, but this does not mean you’re in the clear. If you have a high-sugar diet, eating disorder or poor exercise routine, you could be at risk of being pre-diabetic.
When we’re not eating regularly enough, feeling stressed or scared, we can experience short-term low blood sugar. Usually, this is not a dangerous situation and by replenishing our stocks we can balance ourselves out again. However, if this is happening regularly, it would be advisable to visit a doctor and get checked out.
The two most common types of diabetes
This type of diabetes is an autoimmune disease. This essentially means the body is attacking itself. In this case, attacking the pancreas. The immune system which is meant to protect the body, mistakenly sees the insulin-producing pancreatic cells as foreign, and works to destroy them.
With the insulin-producing cells being destroyed, insulin levels decrease. Soon there is a major shortage of “keys” which should be unlocking the cells for the glucose to be used as energy. This means the sugar which cannot be absorbed, stays in our blood and builds up. When the build-up reaches dangerous levels, known as becoming hyperglycaemic, it can be life-threatening.
Type 1 diabetes is treatable by taking insulin injections, the hormone which the body can no longer produce. However, it’s tough to know the correct amount of insulin to take, as the levels can vary depending on lifestyle.
Most commonly seen in overweight adults with an unhealthy lifestyle. People with this form of diabetes can still produce some of their own insulin, however, not in sufficient quantities. Also, the cells stop reacting normally to the insulin that’s there. The cells will not unlock, and so treatment can involve medications that encourage the body to use it’s insulin properly.
The main and most important treatment for this type of diabetes revolves around implementing a healthy diet and exercise routine. If this doesn’t help, insulin injections are necessary.
Being trained to recognise the warning signs of diabetes, is a useful addition to any therapists know-how list. Part of our job as therapists, is to know when to refer our clients to other professionals or recommend they seek medical advice.
Early diagnosis of the disease when coupled with immediate treatment is life-saving. Considering that this incurable disease is one of the most prominent across the globe, means you’ll likely encounter a few clients with the condition. At The School of Natural Health Sciences we offer a detailed diploma-correspondence course in Diabetes Risk Awareness, designed to benefit any working therapist throughout their career.