1.What is diabetes and what causes it?
Answer: Diabetes is a metabolic disease where the blood sugar levels are high. If untreated, it leads to serious complications affecting major organs of the body.
Glucose, found in carbohydrates, is a major source of fuel. We need insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, for appropriate utilization of glucose in the body. Any disturbance in the production or action of insulin leads toa rise in blood glucose.
Different types of diabetes are caused due to a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors
2. What are the different types of diabetes?
Answer:Depending on the genetic & environmental cause of diabetes, there are different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus: This is an autoimmune disorder where the insulin secreting cells of the pancreas gets destroyed due to an inappropriate response of the defense system. As a result insulin production from the pancreas stops. It is seen most commonly in young children and was previously known as juvenile diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells do not respond normally to insulin. Insulin resistance results in decreased absorption of glucose into the cells. Insulin resistance in combination with a partial deficiency of insulin secretion from pancreas is believed to be responsible for development of type 2 diabetes. It was previously a disease which was limited to adults but now it is common in people of all ages including children.
- Gestational diabetes mellitus occurs due to hormonal changes during pregnancy and usually resolves after the delivery.
3. What should I do to control Diabetes?
Answer: If one suffers from type 1 diabetes, the mainstay of therapy is insulin injection as discontinuation of insulin may result in life threatening diabetic emergencies like diabetic ketoacidosis. Till today’s date, there is very little that can be done to restart insulin production from pancreas in type 1 diabetes. The main focus should be on timely administration of correct dosage of insulin and periodic health check up.
Those with type 2 diabetes should adopt a low-sugar and low fat diet, maintain a regular exercise regimen, take timely medicines and schedule timely follow ups with treating doctor.
4.Can diabetes be cured?
Answer: As of now, there is no cure for diabetes. Those with type 1 need life-long insulin injections. Those with type 2 can bring it under control with a regimen of medication, diet and exercise. Rarely, there might be a window period where the doctor might discontinue medicines, but it usually recurs.
5.What are the complications caused because of diabetes?
Answer: Diabetes, if unchecked, leads to complications that involve multiple organs.
- Increased risk of coronary artery disease, heart attacks, strokes & atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries)
- Eye damage – Retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, blindness.
- Kidney damage, which can lead to end-stage kidney disease or renal failure.
- Nerve damage – tingling numbness, pain or burning sensation in limbs
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Diabetic foot disease that may lead to gangrene, resulting
- Increased risk of bacterial and fungal skin infections
- Poor wound healing in amputation.
6. How do I check whether I have diabetes?
Answer:To check yourself for diabetes, run through a list of symptoms:
If you suspect Diabetes:
High blood glucose cause symptoms like frequency of urination, increased appetite, increased thirst, weight loss, easy fatigability, blurred vision, dryness of skin, recurrent yeast infections
If you suspect Diabetes Type 1: Above mentioned symptoms occurring in a child can be a clue to type 1 diabetes. Sometimes with very high glucose in type 1 diabetes, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath and drowsiness can occur, a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.
If you suspect Diabetes Type 2: Type 2 diabetes can remain silent and is often detected during a routine health check up. If the blood glucose levels are high, the above mentioned symptoms can also occur in type 2 diabetes.
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor
7. Does the treatment of diabetes have any side effects?
Answer: Diabetic medications are usually safe. They sometimes cause side effects like nausea, loss of appetite, bloating and diarrhea. Some of the diabetic medications can cause low sugar which has to be recognized and corrected immediately. If a medication is causing any side effect please contact your doctor for optimizing your medicines.
8.What should be my diet plan if I have diabetes?
Answer: If you have diabetes you must consult a nutritionist and get a diet plan that suits your lifestyle. Diabetic diet should be low in simple sugars and rich in fiber.
9. How often should I consult a doctor for diabetes?
Answer: It depends on your sugar levels and associated complications. If your diabetes is well controlled and there are no associated problems a periodic check up at 3-6 month interval is recommended.
10. My family members have diabetes. Does that increase my risk?
Answer: Yes, as genetic factors are responsible for development of diabetes, those with parents or siblings with diabetes are more likely to get diabetes.
11. Can diet and exercise help prevent diabetes?
Answer: Yes, diet and exercise can help prevent diabetes. There is a stage known as pre-diabetes, where chance of progression to diabetes increases. This stage is reversible. It is crucial to control diet and exercise regularly in order to prevent development of diabetes in future. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the first line of defense against diabetes.
12.What treatments are available for diabetes?
Answer: Depending on the type of diabetes & your health status, your doctor may prescribe oraltablets, insulin injections or insulin pump that will help control your diabetes.
In additions to medication, diet-control and exercise are important part of the treatment for diabetes.
13. How often should I get a blood test after being diagnosed with diabetes?
Answer: This varies from person to person. Depending on your type of diabetes and treatment plan, it can range from 4-6 times daily to once in a month. If you are on insulin, it is recommended to take your blood sugar levels 1-7 times a day. If you are feeling dizzy or fatigued, you should immediately check your blood sugar levels with glucometer and if low take sugar or glucose.
14.For how long will I have to take medicines?
Answer: If you are suffering from diabetes type 1, you will need to take insulin for your entire life as till date there is no other accepted treatment option.
If you are suffering from diabetes type 2, the most likely scenario is you will need lifelong medication. After controlling your diet and exercising regularly, you might require fewer medicines. In early stages of diabetes lifestyle change can control blood glucose.
15.Will insurance help cover the cost for treatment?
Answer:As diabetes is a serious disease leading to fatal complications if unchecked, it is covered by insurance. Check with your insurance provider about your treatment costs.
16. How does diabetes affect the body?
Answer:Diabetes is a metabolic disease that affects multiple organs of the body. It may cause long term complications heart disease, stroke, diabetic foot and gangrene, retinopathy, neuropathy and kidney problems. Uncontrolled diabetes can also cause skin infections, poor-wound healing, recurrent urinary tract infections, and genital infections. It also predisposes to infections like tuberculosis.
17. Does diabetes cause hair loss?
Answer:Diabetes interrupts the hair growing process, which decreases the rate of hair growth. At the same time, it is responsible for the loss of hair from the head, chest, arms and legs.
18.Will there be any change in my lifestyle after being diagnosed?
Answer: There is a need for change in lifestyle after diagnosis as the best way to control diabetes is to take proper medications along with diet-control and regular exercise. These changes are long term and need to be incorporated in your life style.
19. Do I require post treatment follow ups?
Answer: Yes, you will require regular post treatment follow up to control diabetes.
20. What all should I carry for my first appointment?
Answer:For your first visit, you should carry the following things:
- A detailed list of your symptoms
- Any recent medical investigations such as blood tests, etc (less than 1 year).
- A list of medications you are currently taking.
- Your insurance details or company ID in case the hospital is on your health panel.