Lee Chung Horn
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  DIABETES MELLITUS
 

WHAT IS TYPE 1 DIABETES MELLITUS

Finding out you have diabetes is scary. But don't panic! Sure, diabetes is serious. But people with diabetes can live long, healthy, happy lives. You can too by taking good care of yourself.

The Sugar Connection

In diabetes, there's too much glucose in the blood. Glucose is a kind of sugar that your body's cells use for fuel. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it  can cause two problems. Right away, your cells may be starved for energy. Over time, high glucose levels may hurt your eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart.

Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

There are two main kinds of diabetes. You have insulin-dependent diabetes. It is also called Type I diabetes. It used to be called juvenile diabetes (even though adults get it too). You did not catch diabetes from someone else. Instead, insulin-dependent diabetes is caused by immune-mediated damage to the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ near your stomach. The pancreas contains cells called beta cells. Beta cells have a vital job: they make insulin, a hormone that helps cells take in the glucose they need. Sometimes, the beta cells get wiped out and cannot produce insulin anymore. Without insulin, glucose stays in the blood instead of going into cells. Many things might have killed your beta cells, but in most people with insulin-dependent diabetes, the immune system makes a mistake. Cells that should protect you from germs instead attack your beta cells. The beta cells die. Without beta cells, you make no insulin. Glucose builds up in your blood, and you get diabetes.

The Diagnosis  

You probably knew something was wrong before your doctor said you had diabetes. You may have:  

1 lost weight without trying,

2 had to use the bathroom a lot,

3 felt very hungry,

4 felt very thirsty,

5 had trouble seeing,

6 felt tired, and/or gone into a coma.

Taking care of your type 1 diabetes

The problem in diabetes is too much glucose in the blood. So the goal of treatment is to lower glucose levels with:

1 insulin shots

2 good diet, and

3 exercise

Insulin shots. Your beta cells no longer make insulin. But you need insulin to live. Insulin injections or shots replace the insulin you no longer make. Insulin shots let your cells take in glucose. Then you no longer have too much glucose in your blood. Your tiredness, hunger and thirst and frequent urination go away.

Your doctor or endocrinologist will tell you what kind of insulin to take, how much and when. At first, you might feel afraid. Remember how scary riding a bike was? Giving yourself shots or injections will become as easy as riding a bike.

Good diet. When you eat, your body digests and changes food into glucose. Your blood glucose levels go up. You deal with this rise in two ways: taking insulin shots before meals, and/or eating a healthy, low-calorie diet. In the early days before insulin was discovered, people with diabetes ate a limited diet. For example, they didn't eat any sugar at all. Today, you have many choices. The best diet for a person with diabetes is like the best diet for anybody. Such a diet is low in fat, has only moderate amounts of protein, and is high in complex carbohydrates, like those in beans, vegetables, and grains (such as breads, cereals, noodles, and rice).

The diet for diabetes does need one special thing--consistency. It's best to eat about the same number of calories each day, plan your meals and snacks for the same times each day, and never skip meals.

Each person is different. You and your dietician will work out a meal plan just for you. To make sure your plan fits your life, tell your dietician and doctor what foods you like and don't like, your daily schedule, other health problems you have, and your exercise habits.

Exercise. Being active helps your cells take in glucose. It lowers glucose levels in your blood. So exercise is good for most people with diabetes. Tell your doctor about the types of exercise you do now. Your doctor will help you fit them into your new lifestyle. If you don't exercise already, your doctor may advise you to become more active.


 

Copyright of Lee Chung Horn Diabetes & Endocrinology 2009