The brain depends on glucose as a fuel. As glucose levels drop below 65 mg/dL (3.2 mmol/L) counterregulatory hormones (eg, glucagon, cortisol, epinephrine) are released, and symptoms of hypoglycemia develop. These symptoms include sweatiness, shaking, confusion, behavioral changes, and, eventually, coma when blood glucose levels fall below 30-40 mg/dL.
Patients need to ensure that their blood glucose levels are kept as normal as possible so that delicate tissues in the body (especially blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys and peripheral nerves) are not damaged by high glucose levels over a long period of time. To achieve this, patients need to measure their glucose regularly and learn how to adjust their insulin doses in order to optimise their glucose levels (diabetes control). Good diabetes control helps to minimise the risk of long-term diabetes complications, as well as short-term symptoms (such as thirst).
Patient Education. Successful management of diabetes requires that the patient actively participate in and be committed to the regimen of care. The problem of poor control can cause serious or even deadly short-term and long-term complications, with devastating effects on the patient's longevity and sense of well being. There are many teaching aids available to help persons with diabetes understand their disease and comply with prescribed therapy. In general, a patient education program should include the following components:
Persons with diabetes who take insulin must be careful about indulging in unplanned exercise. Strenuous physical activity can rapidly lower their blood sugar and precipitate a hypoglycemic reaction. For a person whose blood glucose level is over 250 mg/dl, the advice would be not to exercise at all. At this range, the levels of insulin are too low and the body would have difficulty transporting glucose into exercising muscles. The result of exercise would be a rise in blood glucose levels.
Although this complication is not seen in pediatric patients, it is a significant cause of morbidity and premature mortality in adults with diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes mellitus have twice the risk of fatal myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke that people unaffected with diabetes do; in women, the MI risk is 4 times greater. People with type 1 diabetes mellitus also have 4 times greater risk for atherosclerosis.
Patients who suffer from diabetes have a lifelong struggle to attain and maintain blood glucose levels as close to the normal range as possible. With appropriate blood sugar control, the risk of both microvascular (small blood vessel) and neuropathic (nerve) complications is decreased markedly. Additionally, if hypertension (high blood pressure) and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) are treated promptly and aggressively, the risk of cardiovascular complications should decrease as well.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition of blood sugar dysregulation. In general blood sugar is too high, but it also can be too low. This can happen if you take medications then skip a meal. Blood sugar also can rise very quickly after a high glycemic index meal, and then fall a few hours later, plummeting into hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia can include
Cataracts and glaucoma are also more common among diabetics. It is also important to note that since the lens of the eye lets water through, if blood sugar concentrations vary a lot, the lens of the eye will shrink and swell with fluid accordingly. As a result, blurry vision is very common in poorly controlled diabetes. Patients are usually discouraged from getting a new eyeglass prescription until their blood sugar is controlled. This allows for a more accurate assessment of what kind of glasses prescription is required.
Doctors and people with diabetes have observed that infections seem more common if you have diabetes. Research in this area, however, has not proved whether this is entirely true, nor why. It may be that high levels of blood sugar impair your body's natural healing process and your ability to fight infections. For women, bladder and vaginal infections are especially common.
How does type 2 diabetes progress over time? Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, meaning that the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar gets worse over time, despite careful management. Over time, the body’s cells become increasingly less responsive to insulin (increased insulin resistance) and beta cells in the pancreas produce less and less insulin (called beta-cell burnout). In fact, when people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they usually have already lost up to 50% or more of their beta cell function. As type 2 diabetes progresses, people typically need to add one or more different types of medications. The good news is that there are many more choices available for treatments, and a number of these medications don’t cause as much hypoglycemia, hunger and/or weight gain (e.g., metformin, pioglitazone, DPP-4 inhibitors, GLP-1 agonists, SGLT-2 inhibitors, and better insulin). Diligent management early on can help preserve remaining beta cell function and sometimes slow progression of the disease, although the need to use more and different types of medications does not mean that you have failed.
Endocrinology A chronic condition which affects ±10% of the general population, characterized by ↑ serum glucose and a relative or absolute ↓ in pancreatic insulin production, or ↓ tissue responsiveness to insulin; if not properly controlled, the excess glucose damages blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart Types Insulin dependent–type I and non-insulin dependent–type II diabetes Symptoms type 1 DM is associated with ↑ urine output, thirst, fatigue, and weight loss (despite an ↑ appetite), N&V; type 2 DM is associated with, in addition, non-healing ulcers, oral and bladder infections, blurred vision, paresthesias in the hands and feet, and itching Cardiovascular MI, stoke Eyes Retinal damage, blindness Legs/feet Nonhealing ulcers, cuts leading to gangrene and amputation Kidneys HTN, renal failure Neurology Paresthesias, neuropathy Diagnosis Serum glucose above cut-off points after meals or when fasting; once therapy is begun, serum levels of glycosylated Hb are measured periodically to assess adequacy of glucose control Management Therapy reflects type of DM; metformin and triglitazone have equal and additive effects on glycemic control Prognosis A function of stringency of glucose control and presence of complications. See ABCD Trial, Brittle diabetes, Bronze diabetes, Chemical diabetes, Gestational diabetes, Insulin-dependent diabetes, Metformin, MODY diabetes, Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Pseudodiabetes, Secondary diabetes, Starvation diabetes, Troglitazone.
Lifestyle factors are important to the development of type 2 diabetes, including obesity and being overweight (defined by a body mass index of greater than 25), lack of physical activity, poor diet, stress, and urbanization. Excess body fat is associated with 30% of cases in those of Chinese and Japanese descent, 60–80% of cases in those of European and African descent, and 100% of cases in Pima Indians and Pacific Islanders. Among those who are not obese, a high waist–hip ratio is often present. Smoking appears to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
In this health topic, we explain the dangers of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels, and diabetes. Hyperglycemia causes many of the warning signs of diabetes listed above. Hyperglycemia may be caused by skipping or forgetting your insulin or diabetes medicine, eating too many grams of carbs for the amount of insulin administered, simply eating too many grams of carbs in general, or from stress or infections.