November is Diabetes Month – What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to process and change sugar consumed into energy. Insulin is a hormone which enables the body to convert sugar or glucose into energy. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin or the body fails to use the insulin correctly. In South Africa about 4.5 million people have diabetes – the leading cause of death among women.
There are two main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease that occurs early in life and can be diagnosed in both children and adults. The body fails to produce insulin, and the person needs to inject him/herself with insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes is common among overweight individuals and more common in recent times among children, because of the rise in processed and junk food. It results from the body’s inability to use the insulin produced correctly or the body ‘ignoring’ the insulin. The body is therefore starved of energy as blood sugar is not released into the cells. Type 2 also has two types: type 2A (insulin excess) and type 2B (insulin depletion).
Signs to look out for: weight loss, hunger (even though you have just eaten), excessive thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision, fatigue and chronic infections.
How to test for diabetes
A sample of blood is taken. The level of blood sugar is then tested, and these results are able to determine whether you have diabetes and what type. Many people rely on home-tester kits, but it is important to note that your medical practitioner will not make a diagnosis from the results of the blood test alone, but will also take into account your physical exam, your medical history and current lifestyle.
Once it is established that you have diabetes, regular monitoring of blood glucose levels can be done from home, using various blood glucose meters. Managing diabetes goes hand in hand with a change in the types of food you eat, as well as regular exercise.
Monitoring your blood glucose levels is a very important part of managing diabetes as it measures how your body reacts to different types of foods, medication, stress and exercise. It is a good way to measure whether your levels are too high or too low.
Testing can be done on various parts of the body such as the finger (most common for quick results to changes in blood glucose levels), the palm, forearm, upper arm, thigh or calf. If you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms and think that there may be cause for concern, get yourself and your family tested.
Always remember the wise old saying… Prevention is better than cure.
For more information contact Diabetes South Africa.
Telephone: 021 425 4440
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