Living with Diabetes

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Life with diabetes is obviously complicated and poses a challenge on every person with this disease. But, if to learn how to behave, when diagnosed with this condition and make an effort to accept yourself as you are, it may seem to be a tragedy a little less. This educational brochure aims at description and definition of this chronic condition, as well as depiction of common experiences and life issues of people with diabetes. It also may be helpful in teaching self-management for diabetics and accentuating attention on community support of people living with such condition.

Definition and description of diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that appears when levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood are high because body makes not enough of insulin or it is resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas for regulation of blood sugar levels in the cells, that is to be used for energy. The disease happens when there is a problem with the insulin and its action in the body. Insulin’s aim is to help body cells to use sugar (glucose) as energy to fulfill certain functions. When a person has diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or body’s cells do not respond to the hormone in a normal way (Diabetes 2012).

Types of diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes, which are: diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2. Type 1 diabetes happens when pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin to control blood glucose levels. It is occurs in young people, usually before 30, but it can affect adults as well. Type 1 diabetes requires insulin as a treatment. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs when cells do not accept insulin and the pancreas don’t make enough of insulin. This type affects people over 30 years old and the possibility of happening increases with age. People may be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if they had a family member suffering from this disease, are overweight, and do not exercise regularly. Type 2 usually does not require insulin as a treatment. But healthy diet and regular increase exercises can be helpful, because a lot of obese people have particularly this type.

Diabetes can cause such complications as:

• Blindness

• Kidney problems

• Heart attacks

• Strokes

• Serious infections

Diabetes type 2 symptoms

Common symptoms for people with diabetes are: frequent urination, constant thirstiness, weight loss despite increase in the appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, itching, tingling and numbness. There are also cases of impotence in men and missed menstruation in women. People with diabetes also may be easily infected and their wounds are healing slowly.

Diagnoses

Diabetes is diagnosed by symptoms or with the help of the blood test. When a person experiences one or more of the symptoms, doctor can measure his or her blood sugar levels. There are different blood tests to do this. Some of them require that the person does not eat anything a few hours before the test. Such tests are usually taken in the morning. There are also others, which can be taken any time, even after meals. If the blood sugar levels are high, it is possible that diabetes is the cause. Doctor may ask a person to do another blood glucose test to confirm the diagnosis.

Common experiences and issues of life with diabetes

Diabetes is a difficult disease, so it can influence patient’s life in many ways. If not treated and controlled, it can affect such important organs of the body as kidneys, eyes, blood vessels and nerves.

Psychological and physical aspects are important when it comes to treatment and control of diabetes. Treatment presupposes a change in a lifestyle. It means that a person is to rest well, have a healthy diet and engage in regular exercises. These changes may be helpful in keeping the blood sugar levels under control. Psychological aspect is present because person with diabetes is under a lot of stress all the time. Stress is at its peak when blood glucose levels are really high or low. Adding to this, there is a possibility of complications, which also can cause worries.  Diabetics’ quality of life is affected in many directions. Stress can change blood glucose levels in a couple of ways. On the one hand, people who are under a lot of stress do not take good care of themselves. They may drink alcohol, eat unhealthy food and forget to exercise regularly. On the other hand, stress may change blood levels of glucose in a direct way. Moreover, it can weaken body's immune system. In this way stress may reduce body's ability to protect itself from other diseases and infections. Another aspect that is important while dealing with diabetes is physical one. Food influences greatly the blood glucose level, that is why diabetics are to overcome a change of the diet. It can affect the diet of the whole family, because people with diabetes are expected to eat regularly in order for blood sugar levels not to change. For some member of the family such adjustment may be difficult. People with diabetes need to rest well because they often feel themselves tired. Another aspect of diabetes is the change of sex life. Women with diabetes generally have less interest in sex because of their disease. Financial aspect also plays an important role in treatment of diabetes. Equipment for blood monitoring, medications, test strips and insulin cost money. It may be difficult and expensive to get a life insurance. Change of the diet, gym membership and equipment purchase may cause sufficient financial difficulties.

Diabetes self-management activities 

Diabetes education is important, but the patient will benefit to the full only after learning self-management activities. They refer to behaviors, such as: following a diet plan, avoiding high fat foods, increasing exercising, self-glucose monitoring, taking medication and foot care.

Healthy eating

People with diabetes are to consume balanced food that contains carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Diet affects their health in two ways: by the quality of eaten food and by its quantity. Diabetic is to learn how to manage food consumption and it will help him or her to keep stable glucose levels, reduce risk of any other disease appearance or possibility of complications.

Being active

Regular exercising can help to control blood sugar and weight loss. It can also help to reduce risk of heart disease and nerve problems that are often connected to the appearance of diabetes. The right mixture of diet and exercise can frequently help to avoid medication for people with type 2 diabetes. Regular exercising helps muscles to use insulin in a better way. This helps to get more glucose from the bloodstream and to use it for energy. Diabetes can have negative influence on heart health. It can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Regular exercises reduce these risks by increasing levels of good cholesterol and lowering levels of bad cholesterol. Physical activity has also positive influence on the blood flow

Monitoring

Blood glucose meter can help to control blood sugar level. It can also show how a healthy diet, physical activity and medications affect quantity of sugar in the blood. Health care team can help every diabetic in checking blood sugar regularly. Monitoring, however, does not stop at this point. Diabetics can also regularly check their blood pressure and weight.

Taking medication

For some people medication will be needed, even though they eat healthy and exercise regularly. That is why, it is important to understand, how drugs work and be aware of the possible side effects.  Drug therapy combined with healthy lifestyle lowers blood sugar levels and reduces risks of possible complications.

Reducing risks

Changing unhealthy habits can also improve diabetics’ health and reduce unfavorable risks. Therefore, people with diabetes are advised to quit smoking and drinking, as well as have regular eye, foot, and teeth check-ups to avoid complications.

Healthy coping

Health status of diabetics is also affected by such emotional and social factors as stress, depression and financial difficulties. Stress influences motivation of diabetics to keep their condition under control. When motivation is low, important self-care tasks can be difficult to perform. Daily self-care becomes more challenging when a person with diabetes feels that problems are impossible to overcome. Learning to cope with stressful life situations is an important aspect of blood sugar control.

Community support for living with diabetes

Society has one of the most crucial roles in diabetics’ adjustment to their new life with its difficult challenges and demands. There exist a lot of support services available for people with this condition all over the state. Among them are the following:

  • Australian Diabetes Council Location: 26 Arundel Street GPO Box 9824 GLEBE  NSW  2037 Phone number 1300342238
  • Diabetes Australia. Location: 570 Elizabeth Street Melbourne VIC 3000 Phone number: 1300 136 588
  • Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute. Location: 75 Commercial Road Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia Phone number: +61 (0)3 8532 1111

To conclude with, diabetes is, of course, a disease that changes people’s lives forever. But, with a passage of time, if people learn its peculiarities and demands and develop self-management skills, they can ultimately adapt their lifestyles to it and in this way live a relatively full life with this condition.

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