Diabetes Mellitus is a medical condition characterised by abnormally high levels of blood sugar in the blood stream. If blood cannot make use of sugar it simply accumulates it instead of being converted to energy.

Insulin, a substance created by a gland called the pancreas, is responsible for regulating the level of sugar in the blood stream. In diabetes the pancreas does not produce enough insulin; this reduces the effectiveness of the pancreas, resulting in high levels of blood sugar.

There are two types of diabetes.

Type 1, or insulin dependent diabetes, often develops in children or young adults and appears rapidly. The pancreas produces little of no insulin. Symptoms can include excessive thirst, lack of energy and weight loss.

Type 2, or non-insulin dependent diabetes, occurs mostly in adults over 40 years. Less dramatic symptoms are lack of energy, drowsiness, thirst, changes in vision and repeated infections or slow healing. Most of these people are overweight.

Treatment is with tablets or Insulin prepared most commonly from the pancreas of pigs and cattle.

Synthetic human insulin is also available. Insulin has to be injected in order to reach the cell which gets glucose from blood. Digestive juices in the stomach would destroy insulin if taken orally.

Type 2 diabetics do not usually require insulin - they take tablets that are made from the chemicals to lower blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes can also often be controlled simply by diet, without any need for medication.

Diabetics must be careful to monitor their condition as sever imbalances can occur. If the blood sugar level is too low, hypoglycaemia can occur. Prompt action must then be taken by eating some form of glucose to raise the blood sugar level.

Urgent medial attention is required in extreme cases to prevent or control a state of coma.

Common symptoms of hypoglycaemia include sweating, fatigue, confusion and tingling. In hyperglycaemia, the blood sugar level is higher than normal and a dose of insulin may be required.

Exercise is so effective in diabetes that it often can act to reduce the dosage of insulin. The main care a diabetic must take with exercise is to plan a snack just prior to exercising to avoid hypoglycaemia.

Diabetics must be more careful about cuts, scratches and infections as they are more susceptible to infections and these then upset the insulin/blood sugar balance. Interference to the blood supply to areas if the body, including feet, kidneys and the heart and the brain, can lead to other complaints as well, so regular medical supervision is recommended.

Simple urine and blood tests taken in the doctor’s surgery can confirm the presence of diabetes. If diabetes is confirmed through testing, regular testing of urine or blood is necessary for control of the disease.

The key to diabetes is early diagnosis and treatment. With a well balanced diet and regular exercise, controlled diabetics often lead more healthy lives than non-diabetics and find that insulin administration quickly becomes part of the normal daily routine.

For further information about diabetes, please contact Diabetes Australia in your State.

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