Thursday, December 11, 2008

Diabetes Health Check

  • Insulin is a hormone that is made in the pancreas. In a perfect endocrine system, the pancreas releases insulin into the blood stream based on the amount of circulating glucose (sugar). It's a system of checks and balances that can be disrupted--resulting in diabetes mellitus.

  • Without (enough) insulin, the sugar we eat and store in our body is (almost) useless. Sugar needs to go inside our cells to provide us with the energy we need to survive. Insulin is the "key" to the door of the cell--only insulin can let sugar go into the cell. Without that insulin key, we have a bunch of sugar ciruculating in our blood stream while the cells nearby are literally starving for the want of that sugar. (There's more to the story . . . but those are the basic facts.)

  • There are two types of diabetes mellitus. In Type 1 the body's own immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes used to be called Juvenile Diabetes, and insulin dependent diabetes. Onset of this type of diabetes usually occurs in childhood, but can occur later in life. In order to live, people suffering from Type 1 diabetes must rely on insulin injections (either "shots" several times daily, or an insulin pump that gives a constant infusion under the skin).

  • Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1. About 90% of all diabetics have type 2. This used to be called "non-insulin dependent diabetes." Type 2 diabetes can be managed in several ways such as: diet, exercise, one or more medications taken by mouth, insulin injections or an insulin pump. Type 2 diabetes is one that may be inherited, is more prevalent in certain ethnicities (black and Hispanic races), and is linked to obesity.

  • Managing diabetes well is critical in avoiding long-term complications such as kidney disease, blindness, skin infections, and poor healing of wounds. It's not fun to manage this condition--I know as the mother of a Type 1 diabetic how this condition affects the life of an individual and a family. As an RN, I never truly appreciated all that this condition entails until diabetes came to live at my house. I have a sense of mission and obligation to highlight diabetes education and self-care issues whenever possible so couldn't resist adding this link that was advertised in a TV commercial this evening. The online questionnaire will help you answer this question:

Courtesy of WebMD

"My brain is shutting down, but I don't know it. I am falling into the abyss, gently and quietly, with my son in the back and the cars flying past us. All is peaceful .
. . We're off the highway, grazing branches and scraping leaves. Very briefly I
feel terror, but before I can react or even register what is happening, the car
flips like a 4,400-pound pancake."--by James S. Hirsch,
Cheating Destiny: Living With Diabetes.


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