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Diabetes (General Information)

Cells of the body need glucose (sugar) for fuel. Insulin is the hormone in the body that lets glucose move from the blood into the cells. Diabetes is a chronic health condition where the body is not able to produce enough insulin, or does not respond well to its own insulin. Because the glucose in the blood cannot get into the cells, it builds up in the blood causing high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).

Your actual blood sugar level is a result of the balance between several factors. These include what kind of food you eat and how much of it you eat, how much exercise you get, and the amount of insulin present in your body. Eating too much of the wrong kinds of food or not taking diabetes medicine on time can cause high blood sugar. Infections can cause high blood sugar even if you are taking medicines correctly. Missing meals, not eating enough food, or taking too much diabetes medicine can lead to low blood sugar.

Untreated over long periods of time, diabetes can cause serious problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, nerve pain or loss of feeling in the legs and feet, and gangrene of the feet. With good treatment keeping your blood sugar under control, you can prevent or delay the complications of diabetes. Normal blood sugar levels are 70-130 one to two hours before a meal and not more than 180 two hours after a meal.

Home Care:

  • Follow your prescribed diabetic diet and take insulin or oral diabetic medicine exactly as ordered.

  • Monitor blood sugars as advised. Keep a log of your results. This will help your doctor adjust your medicines to keep your blood sugar under control.

  • Try to achieve your ideal weight. Proper diet and exercise can reduce or eliminate the need to take diabetes medicine.

  • Avoid tobacco smoking, which worsens the effect of diabetes on your circulation. The risk of a heart attack in a diabetic is 15 times more likely if you smoke.

  • Pay attention to good foot care. If you have lost feeling in your feet you may not notice an injury or infection. Check your feet and between your toes at least once a week.

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a card in your wallet explaining that you are diabetic. In the event that you become very ill and are unable to give this information, it will help medical personnel provide proper care.

  • If you become sick with a cold, the flu, or an infection (viral or bacterial), please do the following:

    • Review your diabetes sick plan and contact your physician as instructed. You may have been advised to call the doctor immediately if:

      • Your blood sugar is above 240 while taking your diabetes medication

      • Your urine ketone levels are above normal or showing high levels of ketones

      • You have been vomiting more than 6 hours

      • You experience difficulty to trouble breathing

      • You develop a high fever or you have had a fever for a couple of days and you aren't getting better

      • You become light-headed and more sleepy than usual

    • Keep taking your oral diabetes medicine (pills) even if you have been vomiting and feeling sick. Contact your doctor immediately for advice because you may need insulin to lower your blood sugar until you recover from your illness.

    • Keep taking your insulin, even if you have been vomiting and feeling sick. Call your doctor immediately and ask if a temporary adjustment of your insulin dose is needed based on your blood glucose (sugar) results.

    • Check your blood sugar every 2 to 4 hours, or at least 4 times a day.

    • Check your keytones often. If you are vomiting and having diarrhea, monitor them more frequently.

    • Don't skip meals. Try to eat small meals on a regular schedule, even if you do not have an appetite.

    • Drink water or other calorie-free, non-caffeinated liquids to stay hydrated. If you are nauseated or vomiting, drink small amounts (sips, a teaspoon) every 5 minutes. To prevent dehydration, try to drink a cup or 8 ounces of fluids every hour while you are awake.

  • Always carry a source of fast-acting sugar with you in case you get symptoms of low blood sugar (below 70). At the first sign of low blood sugar, eat or drink 15 to 20 grams of fast-acting sugar to raise your blood sugar. Examples include:

    • 3 to 4 glucose tablets (found at most drugstores)

    • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of regular (not diet) soft drinks

    • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of any fruit juice

    • 8 ounces (1 cup) of milk

    • 5 to 6 pieces of hard candy

    • 1 tablespoon of honey

  • Check your blood sugar 15 minutes after treating yourself. If it is still low (below 70), take another 15 to 20 grams of fast-acting sugar. Test again in 15 minutes. If it returns to normal (70 or above), eat a snack or meal to keep your blood sugar in a safe range. If it remains low, call your doctor or go to an emergency room.

Follow Up

with your doctor as advised by our staff. For more information, contact the American Diabetes Association. www.diabetes.org or 800-342-2383.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • HIGH BLOOD SUGAR: frequent urination, dizziness, drowsiness, thirst, headache, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, vision changes, fast breathing, confusion or loss of consciousness

  • LOW BLOOD SUGAR: fatigue, headache, shakes, excess sweating, hunger, feeling anxious or restless, vision changes, drowsiness, weakness, confusion or loss of consciousness

  • Chest pain or shortness of breath

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Weakness of an arm or leg or one side of the face

  • Trouble with speech or vision

 

 
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