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Diabetes

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Diabetes

Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that interfere with your body’s ability to maintain healthy levels of glucose in your blood.

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DESCRIPTION (GENERIC)

Glucose is a type of sugar that gives us energy. If you have diabetes, your body cannot convert sugar to energy efficiently. This leads to high levels of sugar in your blood, called hyperglycaemia.

Your blood glucose level (BGL) is controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas. Diabetes occurs when your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin or your body becomes resistant to insulin. There are three main forms of diabetes:

- Type 1 diabetes: is an autoimmune disease. Your pancreas does not produce any insulin and you will require lifelong insulin injections for survival. The disease can occur at any age, although it mostly occurs in children and young adults.

- Type 2 diabetes: is associated with hereditary and lifestyle risk factors including poor diet, not getting enough physical activity, and being overweight or obese. Lifestyle changes may help to manage the condition however, diabetes medications or insulin injections may also be required to control blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes occurs mostly in people aged over 40 years old, however, the disease is also becoming increasingly prevalent in younger age groups.

- Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. The condition usually disappears once your baby is born, however, a history of gestational diabetes increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The condition may be managed through adopting healthy dietary and exercise habits, although diabetes medication, including insulin, may also be required to manage blood sugar levels1.

Prediabetes
Many more people have blood sugar levels above the normal range, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes. This is sometimes known as pre-diabetes. Your risk of developing full-blown diabetes is increased if your blood sugar level is above the normal range2.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Common symptoms include:

  • being more thirsty than usual
  • passing more urine
  • feeling tired and lethargic
  • always feeling hungry
  • having cuts that heal slowly
  • itching, skin infections
  • blurred vision
  • unexplained weight loss (type 1)
  • gradually putting on weight (type 2)
  • mood swings
  • headaches
  • feeling dizzy
  • leg cramps

Type 1 diabetes can develop quickly over weeks or even days.

Type 2 diabetes can develop gradually without any obvious symptoms.

TREATMENT OPTIONS (GENERIC)

As with all medical conditions, consult your GP for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. All types of diabetes are complex and require daily care and management. If diabetes is not managed well, potential complications include:

  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • kidney disease
  • limb amputation
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • blindness

Treatment aims to manage the condition by controlling blood glucose levels, as well as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body weight to help prevent health problems developing later in life. The treatment depends on the type of diabetes you have.

Type 1 diabetes treatment includes:

  • insulin injections
  • having a balanced, healthy diet
  • monitoring your BGL
  • regular physical activity
  • having regular check-ups with your GP

Type 2 diabetes treatment includes:

  • having a balanced, healthy diet
  • regular physical activity
  • weight management
  • monitoring your BGL
  • quitting smoking
  • having regular check-ups with your GP
  • medications and possibly insulin may be required at a later stage3

NOTE: Diabetes is a key risk factor for chronic kidney disease.  Please ask your GP for a Kidney Health Check.

DIET HINTS (GENERIC)

Everyone has different needs and if you have diabetes, ask your GP to refer you to a Dietitian for individual dietary advice. To help manage your diabetes:

  • eat regular meals and spread them evenly throughout the day
  • eat a diet lower in fat, particularly saturated fat
  • if you take insulin or diabetes tablets, you may need to have between-meal snacks to prevent hypoglycaemia (low BGL). See the Diabetes and hypoglycaemia topic for more information
  • always carry fast-acting carbohydrates with you such as glucose tablets or glucose gel
  • do not skip or delay meals or snacks. If you take insulin or oral diabetes medication, be consistent about the amount you eat and the timing of your meals and snacks
  • if you know you will be drinking alcohol, ensure you have some carbohydrate in a meal or snack prior beforehand. See the Diabetes and alcohol topic for more information

VITAMINS/MINERALS/HERBS(GENERIC)

 Always consult your GP before taking any supplement or herbs. Nutritional supplements may only be of benefit if dietary intake is inadequate.

  • Chromium is needed to help the body use glucose effectively. Studies suggest that this mineral may be linked to blood sugar control4.
  • Magnesium levels are often low in people who have diabetes. Supplementing with magnesium may help to correct any deficiency, and help to improve insulin resistance, oxidative stress and inflammation5.
  • Essential fatty acids, such as omega 3 essential fatty acids found in fish oil supplements, help to reduce elevated triglycerides and may be beneficial for people with diabetes6
  • Alpha-lipoic acid may be helpful in preventing diabetic neuropathy (nerve problems)7

ORGANISATIONS & SUPPORT GROUPS (AUST)

See the Diabetes Australia topic for more information.

ORGANISATIONS & SUPPORT GROUPS (UK)

For more help and information see the Diabetes Support Groupsopic.

ORGANISATIONS & SUPPORT GROUPS (NZ)

Diabetes New Zealand

Phone toll-free: 0800 DIABETES (0800 342 238)

Email: admin@diabetes.org.nz

Website: https://diabetes.org.nz/

PHARMACIST'S ADVICE (GENERIC)

Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
1) If you have any queries regarding your medication for Diabetes, ask your Pharmacist.
2) Consider registering with the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) for access to support services and products. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
3) Blood glucose meters are available from your Pharmacy to monitor your blood glucose.
4) Ask your Pharmacist if you are eligible for a Diabetes MedsCheck: an in-pharmacy medicines review specifically related to your diabetes.
5) Smoking increases the risk factors for other diseases such as heart disease and vascular disease. Ask your Pharmacist for help quitting smoking. Nicotine patches, nicotine chewing gum, nicotine inhalers and the QUIT programme are all available from your Pharmacy.
6) Your Pharmacist can provide advice on weight loss and pharmacy programs available to help you lose weight.
7) Footcare products such as wound dressings, corn pads, nail clippers and orthopaedic shoes are available from your Pharmacy. It is important to check your feet every day. If you see any redness, blistering, bruising or cuts, an ingrown nail or unusual swelling, see your GP immediately. Your GP can refer you to a podiatrist for regular foot care. See the Diabetes and footcare topic.
8) Ask your Pharmacist about socks for people with diabetes. These are designed to reduce the risk of blistering, ulceration and fungal infections.
9) Exercise is important for reducing the risk of diabetic complications. It reduces body fat, improves blood glucose control, lowers fat levels in the blood, lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease. See the Exercising for health topic for further information.
10) See the Vitamins/Minerals/Herbs section in this topic and ask your Pharmacist for advice on dietary supplements.

NATUROPATH (GENERIC)

Ask your Naturopath for advice. - Follow the Diet Hints. - Remember to always inform your Naturopath that you have diabetes when purchasing any oral medication. - Smoking increases the risk factors for other diseases such as heart disease and vascular disease. Ask your Naturopath for help with quitting smoking. - Try to lose weight if you are overweight. Obesity is another risk factor in diabetes and can make treating the condition more difficult. Ask your Naturopath for advice. - An appropriate regular exercise programme is essential. Check with your Physician or health care team before commencing an exercise program. - If your dietary intake is inadequate, nutritional supplementation may be useful. See the Vitamins/Minerals/Herbs section in this topic and ask your Naturopath for advice.

 

Source:

  1. What is diabetes? Aust Govt Dept of Health. Last updated Feb 2021. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/chronic-conditions/what-were-doing-about-chronic-conditions/what-were-doing-about-diabetes
  2. Diabetes. NHS Choices UK. Last updated July 2016. Available from URL: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Diabetes/Pages/Diabetes.aspx
  3. REF#Managing Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Australia. Cited Aug 2021. Available from URL: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/living-with-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/managing-type-2/
  4. Diabetes and dietary supplements. NIH. US Dept of Health and Human Services. Last updated May 2018. Available from URL: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/diabetes-and-dietary-supplements
  5. Barbagallo M et al. Magnesium and Type 2 diabetes. World Diabetes 2015 Aug 25; 6(10): 1152–1157. Available from URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549665/
  6. Chan Ci et al. Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Glucose Control and Lipid Levels in Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis. PLoS One. 2015; 10(10): e0139565. Published online 2015 Oct 2.
  7. Diabetes and dietary supplements. NIH. US Dept of Health and Human Services. Last updated May 2018. Available from URL: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/diabetes-and-dietary-supplements
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