Diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body deals with sugar. The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by insulin which is a hormone produced by the pancreas (an organ that lies near your stomach).
Depending on the type of diabetes you have, you may be required to use medications or insulin replacement injections. You will also be advised to make changes to your lifestyle such as eating a healthy diet, exercising on a regular basis and if overweight, losing weight.
Patients with diabetes have too much sugar in their blood. Lowering the blood sugar is important for the prevention of serious complications.
Some indications that you may have diabetes include:
- change in your weight
- feeling thirsty
- excessive passing of urine
- blurred vision
- slow healing of sores
- tingling in hands and feet.
If you experience any of these symptoms please see your doctor. In most people there are hardly any symptoms early in the disease. You are more likely to develop diabetes if you are overweight or have a family history of diabetes.
There are two types of tests in diabetes. Some are to diagnose if you have the condition and others are to monitor your treatment and manage the disease to prevent complications.
The first test you will have had is a blood glucose (sugar) test. This is most sensitive if it is taken when you have an empty stomach so is usually done first thing in the morning, before breakfast.
If there is some question as to whether or not you have diabetes you will have a glucose tolerance test. For this test you have a blood test, then drink a very sweet drink and 2 hours later have another blood test.
Finger prick test. A very quick test where your finger is pricked, a drop of blood is collected on a strip and examined by a small hand-held machine. It takes less than a minute to do. Depending on the type of diabetes you have, you may have one of these machines at home and do your own test a few times a week or day.
Glycosylated haemoglobin test (HbA1c). This is a test that is used to keep track of how your diabetes has being managed over the last 2 to 3 months. You might have 2 to 4 of these tests a year arranged by your doctor or diabetes nurse.
Because diabetes can affect many other organs you will, over time, have other blood and urine tests as well as tests for your heart and eyes.
Diabetes is treated with a combination of diet, exercise and medications. You may also be referred to a:
- dietitian, to advise you on healthy eating
- podiatrist, for foot care
- dentist, to ensure your gums and teeth are well maintained
- nurse, to help with day-to-day management of your diabetes
- ophthalmologist, to monitor your eyes.
The amount of sugar in the blood varies throughout the day but normally remains within a narrow range (usually 4 – 6 mmol/L). Even with medication it tends to be slightly higher in people with diabetes but you will learn what level is your best target.
You will receive lots of information about what you can do to manage your diabetes when, and after, you attend the clinic.
For more information about Diabetes, including an overview, pamphlets, medication and more, please visit Health Navigator.