Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which our body is unable to handle the sugar in
food properly and convert it into energy needed for normal activity
When we eat sugars and cereals, the body changes them into glucose. The glucose
circulates in the bloodstream for immediate use or is stored in the liver as glycogen
for future use. In diabetes, the regulatory mechanism for glucose in the blood is
inefficient. As a result glucose goes on accumulating to dangerous levels, causing
distressing symptoms as well as destroying vital organs
This build-up occurs either because the body does not have enough insulin (a hormone
secreted from the pancreas that regulates the glucose level in the blood) or because
the insulin is not fully effective on body tissues.
Diabetes tends to run in families, but factors other than heredity are responsible
as well. For example, becoming overweight can trigger diabetes in susceptible older
There are two main types of diabetes. Type I, or insulin-dependent diabetes which
is the more severe form of the disease, generally starts during childhood or adolescence.
Life-long treatment with insulin is required along with exercise and a controlled
However, the commonest form of diabetes and the one which affects the older people
is Type II, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
Recent research has shown that blood glucose levels may rise progressively normally
Most people with Type II diabetes do not need insulin injections. They can usually
keep their blood glucose levels near-normal by controlling their weight, by exercising,
and following a sensible diet or taking anti-diabetes pills.
People with diabetes feel “run down” and may have symptoms such as increased thirst,
frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, skin infections
or itching, and slow-healing cuts and bruises. These problems should be reported
promptly to a doctor, who may detect sugar in the urine or too much of it in the
blood. Sometimes there may not be any symptom and the disease is only detected during
routine testing for unrelated problems, for example, surgery.
There are several long-term complications such as stroke, blindness, heart disease,
kidney failure, gangrene and nerve damage which can also result from diabetes. Most
experts believe that proper blood glucose control will help prevent or lessen these
Blood glucose levels that are either very high or very low can lead to serious medical
emergencies. Diabetics may lapse into coma when their blood sugar levels get very
high or very low. People who have diabetes must know the warning signs of these
two conditions and what to do if they occur.
Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Good control requires a careful
blend of diet, exercise, and , if necessary, insulin or oral drugs
Diet planning is vitally important to lowering blood glucose levels. In planning
a diet, the doctor considers the patient’s weight and the amount of physical activity
he or she engages in each day. For overweight patients, a weight-reducing plan is
essential to achieving proper blood glucose control.
Exercise is also important because it helps the body burn some of the excess glucose
as energy. A doctor can help plan an exercise programme that balances the diet and
medication needs of the patient with his or her general health. It is important
to be consistent, exercising about the same amount each day.
Drugs (insulin injection or oral tablets) are needed when good control of blood
sugars cannot be achieved through diet and exercise. Sometimes a patient who normally
does well without drugs will need one on a short-term basis during an acute illness
Proper foot care is essential for people with diabetes, since the disease can cut
down the blood supply to the feet and reduce feeling. Diabetics should examine their
feet everyday for any sores, blisters, breaks in the skin, infections, or build-up
of calluses, which should be reported immediately to the family doctor.
Diabetics are less able to resist infection than others. They should protect their
skin against injury, keep it clean, use skin softeners to treat dryness, and take
care of minor cuts and bruises.
Diabetes is a common cause of blindness in advancing years and this can only be
prevented by annual eye check-ups by an eye specialist.