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Diabetes mellitus type 1 in adults

What is it?

Diabetes (di-ah-BE-tez) is also called diabetes mellitus (MEL-i-tus). There are three main types of diabetes. You have type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes happens when your pancreas (an organ that lies behind the stomach) does not make insulin. It may also be called insulin dependent, early onset, or juvenile onset diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is more common in children or young adults but anyone can have it. There is no cure for diabetes, but you can have a long and active life if your diabetes is controlled.

How did I get type 1 diabetes?

  • Insulin is a hormone (a special body chemical) made by the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ that lies behind the stomach. Much of the food we eat is turned into sugar in the stomach. This sugar goes into the blood and travels to the cells of your body to be used for energy.
  • Insulin acts as a "key" to help sugar enter the cells. When your body does not make insulin, sugar builds up in your blood. With type I diabetes, you must take insulin every day.

Signs and Symptoms:

The symptoms of diabetes usually come on suddenly. These are symptoms of hyperglycemia (hi-per-gli-C-me-ah) or high blood sugar. With any one or more of the following signs and symptoms, you should see your caregiver:

  • Blurry vision.
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired).
  • Hungry all of the time.
  • Losing feeling in your feet or having tingling in your feet.
  • Losing weight without trying.
  • Sores that take a long time to heal.
  • Urinating often.
  • Very dry skin.
  • Very thirsty and drinking a lot of liquids.
  • Vaginal infections in women.

What is diabetic hypoglycemia?

People that have diabetes can sometimes have hypoglycemia (hi-po-gli-C-me-ah). This is a condition that happens when your blood sugar level has fallen too low. It may be caused by having too much insulin in your blood or you may not have eaten enough. Ask your caregiver for more information about hypoglycemia.

It is very important to treat symptoms of low blood sugar right away. If you have low blood sugar, eat or drink a source of carbohydrate. Some examples of carbohydrates are eight ounces (one cup) of skim milk, four ounces (one-half cup) of juice, or five to six hard candies.

Following are the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia:

  • Being confused.
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired).
  • Feeling weak and dizzy.
  • Feeling very hungry.
  • Having a headache and feeling irritable.
  • Having a very fast heart beat.
  • Looking pale.
  • Trembling and sweating with a cold, clammy feeling.
  • Unconscious and going into a coma.

What is ketoacidosis?

Diabetes may also cause ketoacidosis (ke-toe-ah-sih-DOE-sis). This is a condition that happens when your blood sugar stays too high for too long without being treated. This can cause your body to start breaking down body fats for energy rather than using blood sugar. Wastes called ketones are left behind. Ketoacidosis can be very serious and needs to be treated right away. Ask your caregiver for more information about ketoacidosis.

Following are the signs and symptoms of ketoacidosis:

  • More thirsty than usual.
  • Passing more urine than usual.
  • Confused or having trouble thinking clearly.
  • Fatigue (feeling tired).
  • Fast deep breathing.
  • Nausea and vomiting (throwing up).
  • Fruity-smelling breath.
  • Finally, becoming unconscious (coma).

Can diabetes cause other health problems? High blood sugar levels may damage other body tissue and organs over time. Having uncontrolled diabetes can damage your nerves, veins, and arteries. This can cause damage to your feet and legs. With time you may need to have your feet or legs amputated. The buildup of sugar can also damage organs in your body. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause blindness, stop your kidneys from working, or lead to a heart attack. Diabetes can even cause death if it is left untreated.

Wellness Recommendations:

The most important thing you must do is control your blood sugar. Caregivers will work with you to help keep your blood sugar levels within a "target range." This means that your blood sugar is not too high or too low. To do this, you have to find the right balance of diabetes medicine, food intake, and physical activity. Food puts sugar in your body and raises blood sugar levels. Diabetes medicine and physical activity lower blood sugar levels.

You can help control your blood sugar by eating the right food. A diabetes nurse or a dietitian will help you learn what to eat and how food affects your diabetes. A diet high in fiber is helpful in diabetes.

  • You should not drink more than 1 or 2 servings of alcohol more often than 1 or 2 times a week. If you use alcohol, drink it with meals. A serving is the same as 4 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1-1/2 ounces of hard liquor (like gin or whiskey). Drinking alcohol without having food in your stomach may cause a drop in your blood sugar.
  • Exercising helps your body better use sugar and insulin. This helps keep your blood sugar level under control. It also makes the heart stronger, lowers blood pressure, and helps you keep an ideal body weight. You may also feel less anxious about your diabetes and feel better about yourself if you exercise. Ask caregivers to help plan the best exercise program for you. Start exercising when your caregiver says it is OK.
  • If you smoke, you should stop. Smoking damages the heart and lungs. It may also put you at a higher risk of getting diabetes.

Medical Care:

The most important thing you must do is control your blood sugar. This can be done by taking your insulin or blood sugar medicine correctly. Eating the right food and exercising are also very important in controlling diabetes. You must check your blood sugar level every day to make sure you get the right amount of insulin because you have type 1 diabetes.

Dietary Measures:

  • A vegetarian diet and/or a high fiber diet will decrease blood sugars and help you lose weight. It will also help prevent or control diabetes.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to.

The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.

Herbs:

  • American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) may be helpful and has been studied in people with diabetes.
  • Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) may be helpful and has been studied in people with diabetes.
  • Capsaicin cream (Capsicum frutescens), made from the cayenne pepper, may help nerve pain if applied to the affected skin. Wash your hands after using the cream to keep it from getting into your eyes. If your hands are the affected area, wash them 30 minutes after putting on the cream.
  • Chinese ginseng (Panex ginseng) may be helpful and has been studied in people with diabetes.
  • Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) oil may be helpful and has been studied in people with diabetes.
  • Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is helpful for diabetes and has been studied in people.
  • Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre) may be helpful and has been studied in people with diabetes.
  • Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia fulginosa) may be helpful and has been studied in people with diabetes.
  • Psyllium (Plantago isphagula) may be helpful and has been studied in people with diabetes.

Supplements:

  • Alpha lipoic acid may be helpful for diabetes and has been studied in people.
  • B vitamins (B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cyanocobalamin)) may be helpful for diabetes and diabetic nerve problems.
  • Biotin has been used, but has not been studied in people who have diabetes.
  • Chromium may be helpful for diabetes and has been studied in people.
  • Fish oil (DHA, EPA) may be helpful and has been studied in people with diabetes.
  • Glucomannan may be helpful for diabetes and has been studied in people.
  • Guar gum may be helpful for diabetes and has been studied in people.
  • Magnesium may be helpful for diabetes and has been studied in people.
  • Vanadium is helpful for diabetes and has been studied in people.
  • Vitamin E may be helpful for diabetes and has been studied in people.
  • Zinc may be helpful for diabetes and has been studied in people.

Complementary Therapies:

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which combines acupuncture and herbs, has been used to treat diabetes.
  • Stress may affect diabetes.

Do's and Don'ts

Keep your appointments to your caregivers. Bring your diabetes record book with you every time you visit them. A diabetes record book is where you write your blood sugar after checking it. Your diabetes educator may also want you to use the record book to keep track of what you eat and how much diabetes medicine (insulin or pills) you take.

Take special care of your skin, feet, or any sores or cuts you have on your body. Diabetes can change your body's ability to fight infection because your blood sugar is higher than normal. High blood sugar can damage nerves and blood vessels. Because of this, blood and oxygen cannot get to your body tissues. You may lose feeling in your feet because of nerve damage.

Brush and floss your teeth every day. See your dentist two times a year to have your teeth cleaned and checked.

Wear a medical alert bracelet that says you have diabetes. You may get one from the MedicAlert Foundation. Call or write them at:

  • MedicAlert Foundation 2323 Colorado Avenue Turlock, CA 95382 Phone: 1-888-633-4298 Web Address: http://www.medicalert.org

There is a lot to learn about diabetes and you should learn all that you can. Ask your caregiver, diabetes nurse, or dietitian (di-uh-TIH-shun) about classes for diabetics. The more you know about diabetes, the easier it will be for you to control your disease and to live an active life.

Other ways of treating your symptoms:

Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.

Talk to your caregiver if:

You would like medicine to treat diabetes.

Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.

You have questions about what you have read in this document.

You have any of the following signs or symptoms of high blood sugar:

  • Blurry vision.
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired).
  • Hungry all of the time but losing weight without trying.
  • Loss of feeling or have pain or tingling in your hands or feet.
  • Sores that take a long time to heal or very dry skin.
  • Urinating often.
  • Very thirsty and drinking a lot of liquids.
  • Vaginal infections in women.

You have any of the following signs or symptoms of low blood sugar:

Are confused and tired.

Feel weak and dizzy.

Feel very hungry.

Have a headache and feeling irritable.

Have a very fast heart beat.

Look pale, tremble, and sweat with a cold, clammy feeling.

You have burning or stinging when you urinate. Or, you are urinating often and passing small amounts of urine. These may be signs that you have a urine infection.

SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:

You have trouble thinking clearly.

You are feeling worse even though you are following your caregiver's directions.

You have signs of advanced ketoacidosis:

Fruity-smelling breath.

Deep fast breathing at rest.

Trouble thinking clearly, confused, and finally coma.

You have signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain that spreads to your arms, jaw, or back.
  • Nausea (sick to your stomach).
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Sweating.
  • This is an emergency. Call 911 or 0 (operator) for an ambulance to get to the nearest hospital or clinic. Do not drive yourself!

Care Agreement:

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

References:

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Last Updated: 11/4/2014

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