Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers the blood glucose level. When the blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize the glucose level by promoting the uptake of glucose into body cells. In patients with diabetes, the absence of insufficient production of or lack of response to insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition, meaning that although it can be controlled, it lasts a lifetime.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells within the pancreas in response to the intake of food. The role of insulin is to lower blood sugar (glucose) levels by allowing cells in the muscle, liver and fat to take up sugar from the bloodstream that has been absorbed from food, and store it away as energy. In type 1 diabetes (previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus), the insulin-producing cells are destroyed and the body is not able to produce insulin naturally. This means that sugar is not stored away but is constantly released from energy stores giving rise to high sugar levels in the blood. This in turn causes dehydration and thirst (because the high glucose ‘spills over’ into the urine and pulls water out of the body at the same time). To exacerbate the problem, because the body is not making insulin it ‘thinks’ that it is starving so does everything it can to release even more stores of energy into the bloodstream. So, if left untreated, patients become increasingly unwell, lose weight, and develop a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, which is due to the excessive release of acidic energy stores and causes severe changes to how energy is used and stored in the body.
You have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes if you are older, have obesity, have a family history of diabetes, or do not exercise. Having prediabetes also increases your risk. Prediabetes means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you may be able to delay or prevent developing it by making some lifestyle changes.
You should expect your dentist to inquire about how you monitor your blood sugar and your current status (e.g. most recent HbA1c, medication profile). For most routine dental procedures (e.g. examinations, simple fillings, routine cleanings), no special alterations in the delivery of dental care are necessary. However, more involved procedures, such as extensive surgery or treatment of serious infection, may interfere with your normal diabetes management. For such cases, your dentist will work with your physician to ensure the most appropriate approach to care is undertaken. For example, if you need a surgical procedure that will temporarily interfere with your ability to eat, special modifications regarding your nutrition and medication dosing may be prescribed. Finally, if you notice any unusual changes in your mouth (e.g. swelling, pain, red areas) you should see your dentist as soon as possible. These changes may indicate the presence of an infection that may compromise your normal blood sugar control and lead to a worsening of your ability to fight infection. As a result, your infection could become more difficult to treat.
1. Monitoring of blood glucose status. In the past, urine testing was an integral part of the management of diabetes, but it has largely been replaced in recent years by self monitoring of blood glucose. Reasons for this are that blood testing is more accurate, glucose in the urine shows up only after the blood sugar level is high, and individual renal thresholds vary greatly and can change when certain medications are taken. As a person grows older and the kidney is less able to eliminate sugar in the urine, the renal threshold rises and less sugar is spilled into the urine. The position statement of the American Diabetes Association on Tests of Glycemia in Diabetes notes that urine testing still plays a role in monitoring in type 1 and gestational diabetes, and in pregnancy with pre-existing diabetes, as a way to test for ketones. All people with diabetes should test for ketones during times of acute illness or stress and when blood glucose levels are consistently elevated.
Persons with diabetes are prone to infection, delayed healing, and vascular disease. The ease with which poorly controlled diabetic persons develop an infection is thought to be due in part to decreased chemotaxis of leukocytes, abnormal phagocyte function, and diminished blood supply because of atherosclerotic changes in the blood vessels. An impaired blood supply means a deficit in the protective defensive cells transported in the blood. Excessive glucose allows organisms to grow out of control.
To explain what hemoglobin A1c is, think in simple terms. Sugar sticks, and when it's around for a long time, it's harder to get it off. In the body, sugar sticks too, particularly to proteins. The red blood cells that circulate in the body live for about three months before they die off. When sugar sticks to these hemoglobin proteins in these cells, it is known as glycosylated hemoglobin or hemoglobin A1c (HBA1c). Measurement of HBA1c gives us an idea of how much sugar is present in the bloodstream for the preceding three months. In most labs, the normal range is 4%-5.9 %. In poorly controlled diabetes, its 8.0% or above, and in well controlled patients it's less than 7.0% (optimal is <6.5%). The benefits of measuring A1c is that is gives a more reasonable and stable view of what's happening over the course of time (three months), and the value does not vary as much as finger stick blood sugar measurements. There is a direct correlation between A1c levels and average blood sugar levels as follows.
An article published in November 2012 in the journal Global Public Health found that countries with more access to HFCS tended to have higher rates of the disease. Though it’s likely that these countries’ overall eating habits play a role in their populations’ diabetes risk, a study published in February 2013 in the journal PLoS One found limiting access to HFCS in particular may help reduce rates of the diagnosis.
Several other signs and symptoms can mark the onset of diabetes although they are not specific to the disease. In addition to the known ones above, they include blurred vision, headache, fatigue, slow healing of cuts, and itchy skin. Prolonged high blood glucose can cause glucose absorption in the lens of the eye, which leads to changes in its shape, resulting in vision changes. Long-term vision loss can also be caused by diabetic retinopathy. A number of skin rashes that can occur in diabetes are collectively known as diabetic dermadromes.
There is no known preventive measure for type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes – which accounts for 85–90% of all cases – can often be prevented or delayed by maintaining a normal body weight, engaging in physical activity, and consuming a healthy diet. Higher levels of physical activity (more than 90 minutes per day) reduce the risk of diabetes by 28%. Dietary changes known to be effective in helping to prevent diabetes include maintaining a diet rich in whole grains and fiber, and choosing good fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, vegetable oils, and fish. Limiting sugary beverages and eating less red meat and other sources of saturated fat can also help prevent diabetes. Tobacco smoking is also associated with an increased risk of diabetes and its complications, so smoking cessation can be an important preventive measure as well.
Diabetic neuropathy is probably the most common complication of diabetes. Studies suggest that up to 50% of people with diabetes are affected to some degree. Major risk factors of this condition are the level and duration of elevated blood glucose. Neuropathy can lead to sensory loss and damage to the limbs. It is also a major cause of impotence in diabetic men.
Insulin is only recommended for individuals for type 2 diabetics when they have not been able to get blood sugars low enough to prevent complications through other means. To avoid insulin, those with this health condition should work very hard to follow a healthy eating plan that includes a lot of vegetables and lean proteins, exercise every day, and keep stress in perspective. They also should take their oral drugs regularly. It can be difficult to follow these recommendations and the help of your doctor, nutritionist, diabetes educator, health coach, or integrative medicine practitioner may be helpful. If you who want to avoid taking medicine, work with health professionals who are knowledgeable about lifestyle medicine, and can help you understand how to fit the changes into your life.