What is Diabetes?
Since the topic of Diabetes is a big one, we will just give a snapshot of what diabetes is; the classic symptoms of diabetes and how some of our products can help those living with diabetes to live well.
Diabetes is a chronic and enduring health condition, which affects how your body turns food into energy. Most of the food we eat is broken down into sugar (or glucose), which is released into the bloodstream, so that we can use it for energy. When the levels of blood sugars in our bloodstream increase, this sends a message to an important organ called the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is very important as it helps move the glucose or blood sugars in our blood into the body’s cells where it becomes a source of energy.
With Diabetes the body either fails to make enough insulin or cannot use it as well as it should, which then results in too much blood sugar staying in the bloodstream. The long term effects of having too much blood sugars in the bloodstream can have serious consequences to our health, and can lead to heart disease, eye problems, including loss of vision and kidney disease.
Currently there is no cure for diabetes but losing weight (if one is overweight/obese), having a well balanced healthy diet and keeping active can help a great deal. Taking your prescribed medication correctly and keeping up with all your medical check-ups can help you live well and minimise the risk of further health complications.
Types of Diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes namely, Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes (formerly called insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset
The actual cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown , but it is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (this is when the body attacks itself unintentionally by destroying the cells that make insulin) thus stopping the body from making insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults (approx. 1 in 10 people living with diabetes). The symptoms tend to come on very quickly and once diagnosed, one has to use insulin daily in order to survive. There is no cure or prevention identified to date for type 1 diabetes.
Classic symptoms include: excessive urination, excessive thirst, staying hungry all the time, unintentional weight loss, excessive tiredness and vision changes (please refer to literature
or a healthcare professional for further details).
Type 2 Diabetes (previously called non-insulin-dependent, or adult-onset diabetes)
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting approx 9-9.5 out 10 people living with diabetes.Previously it was more common in adults, however over the past few years it has also been identified in younger adults and children. It tends to develop over time as the body slowly fails to use insulin as well as it should and as a result the body struggles to keep blood glucose levels at normal levels for the majority of the time.
Since the effects of high blood sugar levels are not easily noticeable, one can have the condition for several years before it is diagnosed and unfortunately in some people it is after when complications have already arisen. So it is usually advisable that patients with a high risk of developing diabetes are checked by a doctor or suitably trained professional on a regular basis.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthy food, and staying active. In addition to healthy lifestyle changes, medication and/or insulin is often required too. Symptoms may be similar to those of Type 1 diabetes (others include frequent infections, blurred vision, cuts/bruises that are slow to heal, tingling/numbness in the hands/feet, recurring skin, gum or bladder infections).
Gestational diabetes usually develops during pregnancy in women who have never had diabetes. It poses a significant risk to the health of the unborn baby. However, it tends to go away after giving birth and in some women this increases their risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The baby is more likely to become overweight or obese as a child or teenager, and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life too.
Management of Diabetes
- Drug treatment: Taking medication prescribed by your doctor to manage diabetes.
- Maintaining a healthy life-style (Diet and exercise).
- Staying up to date with routine check-ups e.g. footcare, eye tests, blood tests, also blood pressure monitoring (see our hypertension section and blood pressure machines)
Blood glucose management:
Long-term: One important test for people living with diabetes is the HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) test, which is useful for the diagnosis and maintenance of diabetes. The test
will show the average concentration of glucose in the blood over weeks/months. This is a good reflection of blood glucose control over a period of 8-12 weeks prior to having the test. HbA1c is also useful for identifying individuals who are prediabetic (about to develop Type 2 diabetes). So as part of managing the condition people living with diabetes or prediabetics, are given an HbA1c target by their doctor or specialist team. Working towards or maintaining this target can help reduce the risk of future diabetes related complications.
Different from the HbA1c test, is the blood glucose level test, which is usually carried out using a small blood sample taken from a finger and sometimes the arm (done in a clinical
setting) and will only show the levels of blood glucose at that present time. This is very useful to individuals who want to quickly check their blood glucose levels, e.g. when experiencing signs and symptoms of extremely low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemic episodes). Blood testing can be done at any time but may vary according to the type of diabetes one has, but typically first thing in the morning before having anything to eat or drink, just before a meal, 2-hrs after a meal and just before bed.
Generally, routine blood glucose self-monitoring for Type 2 diabetes is not recommended,
- When on insulin
- Have fluctuating blood sugars(extreme) and are at risk of having hypos (hypoglycemic episodes), uncontrolled diabetes, also see our pocket hypocard
- Have recently started a new diabetic medication
- Women with diabetes who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
- When taking medications which can raise your blood sugars e.g steroids
There is a wide variety of blood glucose meters available on the market, some from diabetes charities or healthcare organisations (free of charge), also in pharmacies, supermarkets, on-line shops etc. It is always important to get one from a reliable and reputable source. Most importantly, it is crucial to discuss your diabetes management plan with your clinician before buying any self-monitoring kits***.
When buying a blood glucose meter the following is important:
- The brand of the testing kit: it has to be one that is from a reputable manufacturer
(***All the testing kits on www.zimshop2u.com are FDA /& EU certified).
- When choosing a kit, remember to select one with testing strips that are widely available and affordable.
- Recalling the name of the machine is just as important, for when buying test strips.
- Some monitors have additional features like ketone testing (crucial for Type 1 diabetes or those on insulin) another key thing to bear in mind when choosing a meter.
- An important part of blood glucose testing is the procedure of piercing the finger to
retrieve blood for testing, also referred to lancing.
- Lancets (small sharp objects) alone, or lancing devices + lancets are used for this purpose.
- Lancing devices don’t necessarily have to be of the same brand as your glucose meter, as long as you pair them up with the correct lancets.
- Lancets are single use only, and after use they are to be disposed off safely in a sharps bin or secure container to prevent needle stick injuries or accidents.
- The person’s monitoring skills and knowledge about managing their condition is equally important, i.e interpretation of results, frequency of testing.
- Physical disability also has to be considered when choosing a meter e.g. manual dexterity (glucorx), visual impairment (voice aided machine).
To ease the burden of living with diabetes, patient/care givers education around the management of the condition is crucial. It is important to engage with your doctor or diabetes specialist team for support. If you have any specific questions regarding the information here please feel free to contact us via our medical contact page.
Additional resources can also be found here: