According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 30 million children and adults in the USA are living with diabetes – that is about 9.3% of the population. Of that 9.3% only an estimated 21 million have been diagnosed, and the other 8.1 million are unaware that they even have the disease. It is rare to find someone that doesn’t have a close friend or family member that suffers from diabetes – so I thought it was about time to write about it, and – believe it or not – how physical therapy can help those who suffer from it.
What Is Diabetes?
I am sure you know this, but just in case I figure it’s best to start out with an explanation of what diabetes is.
When you have diabetes it means that your body does not produce or properly use insulin. So, to go a little bit deeper – insulin is the hormone that you need so that glucose (sugar) is able to enter your cell and give you the energy necessary to participate in your daily activities. When the pancreas doesn’t produce adequate amounts of insulin, or when the muscle, fat and liver cells don’t respond to insulin properly, glucose builds up in the blood – which is toxic to your cells. Also, due to reduced glucose uptake into the cells, those cells use an abnormal amount of fats for fuel (ketoacidosis) and thus can become undernourished.
So – now let’s break down the 3 main types of diabetes…
1. Type 1 diabetes – develops mostly in children and young adults, and is when the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
2. Type 2 diabetes – can develop at any age and is largely preventable. Type 2 is when the cells of the body become resistant to insulin, and the pancreas it unable to produce enough insulin to override the resistance.
3. Gestational diabetes – develops in women during pregnancy; it occurs more often in African Americans, American Indians, Hispanic Americans, and women with a family history of diabetes and also is associated with obesity and inactivity.
Although the exact cause of diabetes is unknown, factors such as obesity and lack of exercise play important roles in type 2 diabetes. In case you did not know diabetes can also result in conditions such as:
– Heart disease
– High blood pressure
– Kidney disease
– Skin problems, including ulcers and infections
You should also be aware that with a condition called “pre-diabetes” or “insulin resistance,” your blood sugar levels are remain normal – or only moderately elevated – and often are accompanied by elevated insulin levels that have not reached the diabetic stage. If you have pre-diabetes you not only have a greater risk for diabetes, but for heart attacks and strokes as well.
Signs and Symptoms
So – I think that one of the most important things to learn about diabetes are the signs and symptoms. It is important that you pay attention to your body so that you know if it is trying to tell you something. With that being said I am going to list the most common signs and symptoms so you can make a mental note and make sure that you are not experiencing any of them.
Diabetes symptoms include:
– Increased thirst
– Frequent urination
– Constant or extreme hunger
– Unexplained weight loss
– Blurred vision
– Slow-healing sores
– High blood pressure
– Frequent infections, such as gum or skin infections and vaginal or bladder infections
It is important to know that the onset of type 1 diabetes can occur quite quickly. If your cells are using abnormal amount of fats for fuel and becoming undernourished there is a chance that you could lapse into a diabetic coma unless you receive insulin. The onset of type 2 diabetes typically develops more slowly, and you might not have any symptoms at all – so it is a little bit harder to catch.
If you want to have a diabetes test that is possible. The FPG test is a blood test that determines the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood after an overnight fast (not eating for at least 8 hours). A fasting blood sugar level less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) is normal. A fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L) is considered prediabetes. If it’s 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests, you have diabetes.
And that concludes part one of my two part series on diabetes – please make sure to check back next week for part two where I will be talking about how physical therapy can help and what to do if you are experiencing complications.