ComPortOne Health Home Page Diabetes - Could you have it?

My paternal grandmother had diabetes. Since I came from a fairly large family [52 cousins on my father side], it was accepted that some of the cousins would get diabetes. I only knew of two. However, at a recent family reunion, some were talking about people they knew with diabetes and the list got longer. Two aunts (not blood related), cousin David, and my cousin Sandy's ex-husband, Wally.

At church, some friends were talking and I discovered that some of them also have diabetes. In fact, one husband and wife both have diabetes. One dear church member, who died a few years back had diabetes. And a very good friend, who I don't see nearly often enough, has diabetes.

In the community, we have a county board member with diabetes and an acquaintence of one of my daughters has diabetes. One of Rockford's highest regarded community leaders died recently of diabetes complications. And one of my husband's co-workers is a diabetic.

Apparently, either diabetes is becoming worse or I had previously been oblivious of my surroundings. Actually, it's a little of both. When I was younger, I wasn't aware of diabetes and according to the statistics diabetes has increased five-fold since 1958.

With one of my pregnancies, I was borderline diabetic but the symptoms went away with the birth of my daughter. However, when diabetes struck two of my brothers, I decided to learn more about the disease.

I will tell you in an shortened version what diabetes is, who is affected, and the usual symptoms. At the end of the article, I will provide some excellent links to websites devoted to diabetes.

Diabetes was discovered as long ago as 1500 B.C. by Egyptians physicians. The word "diabetes" means passing and the word "mellitus" means (honey or sweet), therefore diabetes mellitus meant "passing sweet" describing the sweet urine passed by diabetics. By the 19th century, scientists attributed the passing of sugar in the urine with the dysfunction of the pancreas (discovered by removing a dog's pancreas and testing its urine.) In 1922, Sir Frederick Banting produced insulin to supplement the body's inefficient production of its own.

Essentially, diabetes results when the body is unable to utilize the carboyhdrates (sugars and starches) ingested. Either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to process these sugars for storage in the cells, or because the insulin produced is less effective than it should be, the sugar (glucose) stays in the blood, accumulating there until it spills over into the kidneys and the urine. The body cannot afford this continued loss of needed carbohydrates and eventually diabetes symptoms are likely to occur.

The symptoms of diabetes, often include but are not limited to;

  • excessive urination
  • excessive hunger
  • weight loss (which many do not experience)
  • weakness
  • fatigue

These symptoms are caused by the kidneys' efforts to rid the body of excess, unprocessed glucose from the bloodstream. Increasing amounts of urine are required to dissolve the concentrated glucose and get it out of the body. This excessive loss creates an insatiable thirst for more liquid to replenish the loss. The weight loss occurs because of the body's inability to utilize the glucose, and appetite increases as the body recognizes the need to correct the weight loss. The fatigue is an obvious consequence of lost glucose, which is a body's normal source of quick energy.

Physicians prefer not to wait until the signs of diabetes are apparent and urgent. By giving a urine test for excess sugar, problems may be spotted. If sugar is discovered, further testing is required. The routine diagnostic test for diabetes is now a fasting plasma glucose test rather than the previously preferred oral glucose tolerance test. [However, some physicians still choose to perform the more difficult and uncomfortable oral glucose tolerance test.]

If discovered in the early stages, the physician may try to get the diabetes to respond to changes in diet and exercise. [If it responds it is considered Type II Diabetes.] Physicians prefer not to prescribe insulin injections because of the possible side effects. But in many diabetics [Type I Diabetes] insulin injections are the only option. Yet, even in those patients, diet and exercise may lower the amount or frequency of the insulin required. Another type of diabetes is Gestational Diabetes. It strikes women only during their pregnancy and subsides after the child's birth. It does however, indicate that there is an increased risk of diabetes striking in later years.

Diabetes can strike anyone at any age but the disease occurs mainly in middle and late years. Nearly eighty percent of all diabetics are over 45 years old. While juvenile diabetes is often too severe to be handled by diet alone, it is still important to follow a healthy diet. Eventually, a child with diabetes will be taught how to give themselves insulin shots, the signs of insulin shock, and how to regularly test their body's glucose level.

While scientists still have not found a cure for diabetes, the medical advances have made it a disease that we can live with. We need to follow their guidelines and take better care of ourselves. It will require a lifestyle change. And with all the support groups available - no one has to go through diabetes alone. For more information check the following:

Diabetes Organization
Statistics and facts that will convince you of the seriousness of diabetes. There is also a test here to determine your risk of developing diabetes.

Centers for Disease Control - Diabetes Home Page
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Public Health Service
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Statistics and information you've got to see to believe.

Access to Medscape is free, but you need to register to use it. Medscape features thousands of free full-text peer-reviewed articles, medical news, and Medline access. Hundreds of articles, medical news reports, patient information documents, and books on diabetes are available.

On-line Resources for Diabetics
Master list with significant resources for diabetics including mailing lists, newsgroups, chat, general interest, organizations, charities, universities, hospitals, companies, publications, government, personal pages, and Medline links.

The Diabetes Monitor
The Diabetes Monitor of the Midwest Diabetes Care Center Inc. includes the Diabetes Mentor section, which is large collection of pages on diabetes for patients and their families. Diabetes Monitor's Webmaster is Dr. William W. Quick, a specialist in diabetes care and endocrinology. He heads the Midwest Diabetes Care Center in Independence, Missouri.

Children with Diabetes
Resources for children and others with type 1 diabetes. Contains more than 1,800 pages. One of the Web's most active sites with more than 10,000 pages delivered daily. Chat areas. Questions and answers online.

The Banting Museum & Education Center
Of London, Ontario, Canada. It is dedicated to Dr. Frederick Banting who discovered insulin in 1921-22. In 1923 he won the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine for his lifesaving discovery. A must-see. Great graphics - and the explanations are first-rate.

Connie Eccles, CEO of ComPortOne

Note: Three years have passed since this article was first written. The list of persons I know with diabetes grows substantially. In its early stages, signs of diabetes may be subtle and only discovered through a blood test that measured your blood sugar levels over the previous 3 months [which is how I discovered it]. After much research, I realize I had something known as Syndrome X for years. Had I known and dealt with it, there is a very good chance that diabetes [and all its complications] could have been prevented or at the least postponed despite the fact that I inherited it from my paternal grandmother. Since I now have personal experience, I will address some of my own challenges in handling this disease in a later article. It is a relatively new discovery and some time is needed to study and reap the benefits of the lifestyle changes made.

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