Diabetes. Many around our area refer to this disease as ‘sugar’ or a ‘little bit of sugar’ and do not understand the severity of their disease. Diabetes is, in short, is a disease that affects a person’s ability to process glucose.
There are two types of diabetes mellitus. Type 1 diabetes means that the body (pancreas) is not producing any insulin and type 2 means the body is producing ineffective insulin. Insulin is the hormone that allows the body to process glucose. Think of glucose as the person at the door and insulin unlocks or opens the door. Without insulin, the glucose remains in the blood stream unable to be utilized by the body. When glucose levels are high it causes damage to the internal structures of the body. In fact, there are many systemic complications from Diabetes Mellitus (DM):
Coronary artery disease (CAD), a disease of the heart’s blood vessels, is the #1 cause of death in the United States causing 2/3 of deaths in type 2 diabetics (American Diabetes Association). You may also be surprised to learn that people with Diabetes are twice as likely to develop CAD. This cardiovascular risk is also associated with an increased risk of stroke.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a serious complication that arises most commonly in type 1 diabetics. The body is forced into a state of acidosis due to the domino effect of the starving cells, breakdown of fat for energy and then the overwhelming byproduct that results. This can cause coma and death and is a medical emergency.
Eye impairments may include increased risk of glaucoma, cataracts, bacterial infections, and diabetic retinopathy.
Skin issues are more common in diabetics due to higher risk for bacterial and fungal infections.
Kidney disease can be a life-threatening complication that can result from chronically high blood glucose. Kidneys also assist in maintaining blood pressure.
Peripheral neuropathy is common in diabetics. Basically, most individuals plagued with this cannot feel if they have an ingrown toenail or if their shoes are too tight. Special care needs to be taken and many schedule to get their toe nails trimmed by a trained professional, such as a Podiatrist, to avoid this complication that can contribute to amputation in extreme cases.
Symptoms of diabetes can sometimes be difficult to see in a child until they become severe. The first signs of elevated glucose may be increased thirst, increased hunger, fatigue, and increased urination. As time progresses you may notice changes in weight, blurry vision, fruity smelling breath, slurred speech, or extreme sleepiness when you reach dangerous levels of glucose. If you or your child have any of these symptoms, please consult a physician as soon as possible.
Management of diabetes is very individualized. The main focus is to keep blood glucose in normal levels to avoid the many systemic complications. Many people with diabetes require medications and even insulin. Type 1 diabetic patients will always need insulin. Both types of diabetes focus on nutrition and ‘carb counting’ to avoid spikes in glucose and maintain consistent energy in the body. The American Diabetes Association ADA) has a food guide that even those without diabetic risk can use to maintain and healthy weight.
In addition to your family doctor there are several local resources available in Meigs County. CMH (Children with Medical Handicaps) is the program facilitated through the Meigs County Health Department for ages 0-21 years old. The CMH program is designed to assist in coverage for medications/equipment and help guide parents during a difficult, scary and sometimes intimidating time with a new diagnosis. You can reach Angie Rosler, RN at the Meigs County Health Department by email: Angella.email@example.com or by phone: (740) 992-6626. Hollie Goodell also manages the child diabetes navigation program launched in 2018, which serves children 0-18 years old with type 1 and type 2 diabetes in Athens and six surrounding counties. The diabetes navigator improves diabetes care by reinforcing culturally and developmentally appropriate education, offering support and advocacy, increasing access to care, screening for psychosocial issues and self-care practices, and serves as a consistent point of connection to address questions and needs in a timely manner. Hollie can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 740-591-8730.
For more information about Diabetes Mellitus or to complete a risk assessment, please visit Diabetes.org.
Angie Rosler is the Children with Medical Handicaps nurse at the Meigs County Health Department.