Most people with diabetes should keep a record of their blood glucose levels and report them to their doctor or nurse for advice in adjusting the dose of insulin or the oral antihyperglycemic drug. Many people can learn to adjust the insulin dose on their own as necessary. Some people who have mild or early type 2 diabetes that is well-controlled with one or two drugs may be able to monitor their fingerstick glucose levels relatively infrequently.
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).
Hemoglobin A1c or HbA1c is a protein on the surface of red blood cells. The HbA1c test is used to monitor blood sugar levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes over time. Normal HbA1c levels are 6% or less. HbA1c levels can be affected by insulin use, fasting, glucose intake (oral or IV), or a combination of these and other factors. High hemoglobin A1c levels in the blood increases the risk of microvascular complications, for example, diabetic neuropathy, eye, and kidney disease.
Monitoring your caloric intake may be helpful if you’re overweight, but everyone with type 2 diabetes should track how many carbs they’re taking in. That can be tricky because carbs are in many of the common foods you may already eat, but there are both good and bad sources of carbs. Fruits and vegetables, for example, are good sources, while pretzels and cookies are bad sources. (29)
While discovering you have diabetes can be a terrifying prospect, the sooner you’re treated, the more manageable your condition will be. In fact, a review of research published in the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care reveals that early treatment with insulin can help patients with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar better and gain less weight than those who start treatment later.
Longer-term, the goals of treatment are to prolong life, reduce symptoms, and prevent diabetes-related complications such as blindness, kidney failure, and amputation of limbs. These goals are accomplished through education, insulin use, meal planning and weight control, exercise, foot care, and careful self-testing of blood glucose levels. Self-testing of blood glucose is accomplished through regular use of a blood glucose monitor (pictured, right). This machine can quickly and easily measure the level of blood glucose based by analysing the level from a small drop of blood that is usually obtained from the tip of a finger. You will also require regular tests for glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c). This measures your overall control over several months.
Of course, you’re exhausted every now and then. But ongoing fatigue is an important symptom to pay attention to; it might mean the food you’re eating for energy isn’t being broken down and used by cells as it’s supposed to. “You’re not getting the fuel your body needs,” says Dobbins. “You’re going to be tired and feel sluggish.” But in many cases of type 2 diabetes, your sugar levels can be elevated for awhile, so these diabetes symptoms could come on slowly.
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by specialized cells (beta cells) of the pancreas. (The pancreas is a deep-seated organ in the abdomen located behind the stomach.) In addition to helping glucose enter the cells, insulin is also important in tightly regulating the level of glucose in the blood. After a meal, the blood glucose level rises. In response to the increased glucose level, the pancreas normally releases more insulin into the bloodstream to help glucose enter the cells and lower blood glucose levels after a meal. When the blood glucose levels are lowered, the insulin release from the pancreas is turned down. It is important to note that even in the fasting state there is a low steady release of insulin than fluctuates a bit and helps to maintain a steady blood sugar level during fasting. In normal individuals, such a regulatory system helps to keep blood glucose levels in a tightly controlled range. As outlined above, in patients with diabetes, the insulin is either absent, relatively insufficient for the body's needs, or not used properly by the body. All of these factors cause elevated levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia).