Things All Diabetics Know To Be True

If you were diagnosed as a diabetic, or you know someone who has been, then you must know the following to be true.

No, Your Raw Food Diet Won’t Cure Diabetes

A meal plan for a person with diabetes isn’t much different than what is recommended for people without diabetes. That means veganism won’t cure diabetes, nor will low-carb diets. And no, hemp seed oil and cinnamon are not going to cure it either. Rest assured that these are wives tales that have been debunked.

There Is No Cure for Diabetes

As much as a raw food diet may boast a “cleansing” ability or your best friend heard from a homeopathic consultant that hemp seed oil and cinnamon work magic, these are not proven treatments to cure diabetes. If it was proven, your physician would gladly supply you with the remedy.

There’s No Need to Be the Sugar Police

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Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Diabetics already feel pressure from their physicians, their family, and themselves to try to make this lifestyle change and there is no need for someone to elect themselves the sugar police. Your heart may be in the right place, but if you are the loved one of someone with diabetes you need to take a step back and not act like you know what is best.

The Personal and Social Costs of Diabetes Are Daunting

You may not realize it, but so many social events are potentially much more difficult for someone with diabetes. Whether there is rich food, alcohol, or other social and food-related traditions involved, a diabetic has to rethink and rework a lot of their habits. These sacrifices are not easy and can feel incredibly overwhelming.

Injecting Insulin Doesn’t Really Hurt

Most needles used for insulin injections are small and thin, causing little or no pain. Some needles are as tiny as five-sixteenths of an inch in length. But for some people, using needles for injections is just an unpleasant act. But fear not. If you are afraid of needles and are diagnosed an insulin-dependent diabetic, you will be able to work through the fear because you can hardly feel the small needle.

There Is a Right Way To Inject Insulin

You should always wash your hands first and wipe the top of the insulin vial with alcohol. This will help you get the most accurate reading. Be sure to follow the directions for mixing your insulin if it’s NPH. Tap the syringe to remove any air bubbles. It is also critical to mix NPH well in an insulin pen. Whether you are using a pen or syringe, remember to always inject at a 90-degree angle. And if you have a pen, remember the five-second rule: Keep the thumb button pressed and the needle under the skin for 5 seconds to make sure all the insulin has gone in.

Cold Insulin Sucks

Insulin that is stored in the refrigerator and used immediately after it is taken out of the refrigerator is more likely to hurt than using insulin at room temperature. Fill your needle with cold insulin and let it sit for a few minutes at room temperature to avoid this terrible sting! But sometimes, if you are in a hurry, it can’t be avoided.

Insulin Helps Regulate Blood Sugar, But It’s Not a Cure

Insulin is a lifesaver – literally, a lifesaver! But insulin does not cure diabetes. If that was the case, there would be no more diabetes. Insulin is used to help diabetics function day-to-day more efficiently. It’s meant to help diabetics avoid any ups and downs or crashes in their blood sugar. That is all.

You Can’t Ignore Eye Health

In young and middle-aged Americans, most new cases of blindness are due to diabetes. Retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease, can lead to blindness. Visit your eye doctor every year for dilated eye and visual exams, not just to check your vision, but also to check for diabetic eye diseases.

It’s Worse under Pressure

Diabetes is responsible for eight percent of blindness in this country. High blood pressure, another common symptom associated with diabetes, can cause damage to blood vessels in the eye and can make diabetic eye disease worse. Keeping up with blood glucose management lowers the risk of developing eye disease and keeps an existing eye disease from getting worse.

Remember: Cholesterol Counts

Along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol can also cause damage to blood vessels in the eye. Diabetics need to keep their cholesterol down to keep eye disease from developing or worsening. To get an accurate test completed to know what your cholesterol is and if you are at risk, meet with your doctor to get an up-to-date reading.

The Medication That Saves My Life Can Very Easily Kill Me

Sounds like a total catch-22! Without a steady stream of insulin, diabetics are at risk and could potentially die. But just like diabetics can’t live without it, dosing a bit too much of insulin can also be lethal. Insulin seems like an easy medication to regulate, but diabetics have to be very aware and very careful.

Diabetes Can Cause Kidney Damage and Sometimes, Kidney Failure

Damaged kidneys can’t do their job. Unfortunately, diabetics can experience high blood glucose over long periods of time. This sustained high blood glucose can, in turn, damage the kidneys. If this condition progresses, then the kidneys won’t filter the blood properly, and may eventually fail altogether. It’s important to remember that for the most part, there are no signs or symptoms of pending kidney failure until kidney disease is already in its advanced stages.

Testing…Testing…

Many people don’t realize that diabetes can cause this extent of damage to someone’s body but diabetics know this risk all too well. It is so important for diabetics to keep up with annual screenings in order to avoid these irreversible affects to their body. And ultimately, the only options once in kidney failure is dialysis or transplant.

Diabetics Get Used To Carrying a Specimen Cup

Your doctor should perform a urine test annually. This is important to check for microalbumin in your urine, which if positive, indicates leakage of protein by the kidneys. Microalbumin is an early sign of damage to the kidney by diabetes and/or high blood pressure. Your doctor needs to continually check your urine and take further blood tests to check how well your kidneys are functioning.

When Things Go Wrong, the Diabetic Is Blamed

People with diabetes get to juggle their foods eaten, with their amount of exercise, and the medications they used and hope their body cooperates. Is your blood sugar out of range? Experiencing diabetes complications? It must be because you aren’t taking care of yourself. But the reality is, no one else gets blamed for their diseases going awry. Don’t assume a diabetic isn’t taking care of his or herself.

Exercise Can Help, But…

It isn’t the cure-all either. Exercise also affects how quickly the insulin will kick in. If you just had a workout or are about to work out, people may not realize that exercise will increase the absorption rate. So we must be aware of when the muscles near the injection site are exercised shortly before or after a shot because it will make a difference.

Even in the Digital Age, Written Records Help

Nowadays, many meters store data electronically, but it’s still a good idea to write down your results. When you write down the date and time, and other variables as well, like food, exercise, alcohol, and stress, you can easily share this important information with your health care providers and adjust your plan for best results.

Diabetes Takes a Physical Toll

There are several short-term and long-term effects on diabetics. From repeatedly drawing blood out of your fingertips to having bruises and scar tissue and red marks as reminders of your treatments. Sometimes medical devices must be worn and let’s not forget the toll diabetes takes on internal organs like the eyes, heart, and nerves.

Every Case of Diabetes Is Different

No two cases of diabetes are alike, so don’t assume that your second cousin’s case of diabetes will be just like your coworker’s. You are not an expert on anyone else’s disease because you know someone who has been diagnosed with that disease. Or even if you have been diagnosed yourself! Everyone’s experiences are individualized to their body.

Every Day Can Be Different

Sometimes the results often do not equal the effort and that is one of the most frustrating parts of being a diabetic. A diabetic can do the exact same thing at the exact same time two days in a row, and those two days can provide completely different blood sugar readings. This irregularity can make motivation really hard to find sometimes.

Type 1 Has Nothing To Do with Eating Habits

Type 1 diabetes is characterized by destroyed pancreatic cells that produce little or no insulin. Type 1 diabetes used to be known as “juvenile diabetes” because a lot of people who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are actually young children, and their lifestyle isn’t to blame for their diagnosis.

Type 2 Is Becoming Common Among Children

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that is developed over time that affects the way the body processes blood sugar. Due to rising instances of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes is becoming more common with children and younger people. Actually, there have been new staggering studies to support this finding.

Type 2 diabetes Is on the Rise in General

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Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images
Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

For example, in new cases of diabetes among African American adolescents over 10 years old, “about 40 percent have type 1 and 55 percent or so have type 2” according to Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, MSPH, PhD, RD, of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Researchers from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study released data showing that type 2 diabetes in 10- to 19-year-olds had increased 21 percent between 2001 and 2009, which is a substantial jump, meaning that more kids than ever have type 2 diabetes.

Diabetics Can be Hypoglycemic or Hyperglycemic

Hyper = high, hypo = low. So in other words, hyperglycemia means there is too much glucose in the blood, and hypoglycemia means there is too little; both conditions have symptoms. Being hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic can have long-lasting affects that can hinder a diabetic’s health. Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia should always be taken seriously.

Being in a Hypoglycemic State Feels Like the Flu

When abnormally low blood glucose hits (hypoglycemia) diabetics can experience flu-like symptoms like shakiness, nervousness or anxiety, nausea, excessive sweating, chills, and clamminess. Some experience irritability, confusion, delirium, rapid or fast heartbeat, lightheadedness or dizziness. These symptoms are noticeable but sometimes can be easily excused as something else (like the example, the flu).

Being in a Hyperglycemic State Can Be Scary

Irregular spouts of high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, may not be a cause for alarm. But persistent hyperglycemia can cause a wide range of chronic or even life-threatening complications. Hyperglycemia can affect large blood vessels, which can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, circulation disorders diabetic eye disease (blindness) and nerve damage.

Lows Need Glucose, Highs Need Insulin

It is incredibly important to know the difference between your lows and highs because administering insulin to someone (or yourself) during a low will cause even lower blood glucose. For type 2 diabetics, exercising can help bring down post-meal highs, but after some time getting to know how you feel and what your readings are, you will become more aware of your needs.

If You’re a Diabetic, You Know the 15-15 Rule

The 15-15 rule is as follows: if you are experiencing hypoglycemia, take 15 grams of carbohydrate, then check your blood glucose again in 15 minutes. Repeat until you get back up to 70 mg/dl. If you are more than an hour away from a meal, you should probably go ahead and eat at least a small meal to ensure that hypoglycemia does not recur. Remember 15 grams and 15 minutes.

Monitoring – It’s a Way of Life!

Diabetic individuals know that monitoring blood glucose is their way of life because it is crucial to maintaining any sense of a normal, healthy life. Ask your health care team whether and how often you should check your blood glucose. How much you monitor your blood glucose depends on your diagnosis. Monitoring frequency will vary depending upon your overall level of control and the medications you take.

Not All Monitors Are Created Equal

Just like every diabetic person is different, all monitoring devices are different, too. Continuous glucose monitoring is the most recommended method by doctors to get a more complete picture of your glucose levels and the accuracy of this test depends on many factors like the quality of your meter, the quality of your test strips, how well you perform the test and more.

The Pharmacist Is Your Friend

He or she can help you to navigate this new terrain you probably didn’t expect to explore. They can help you to plan out a schedule for your medication regimen, help you sort out health insurance issues, and may be able to save you time and effort by contacting your doctor’s office for refill authorizations. Your pharmacist also knows about all the medications you are on and can alert you to potential drug interactions. Your pharmacist is your friend!

Diabetes Can Be Mentally Draining

Diabetes is an unfortunate disease that affects people all too often. It is much too common in society to know someone with diabetes and these people may be four times likelier to become depressed than people without diabetes. People who struggle with their disease feel helpless and the daily stress of diabetes management can feel isolating.

Diabetes and Depression

Poor blood sugar control can cause sleepiness, anxiety, or insomnia, which are also symptoms of depression. This could also be a side effect of certain medications. Sometimes people with diabetes don’t know if it’s depression or the diabetes. Whether you have diabetes or not, talk to your doctor if you notice depressive symptoms.

There’s a Lot You Can Do

You may be feeling helpless after a diagnosis, but there is still a lot you can do to regain a sense of control. You can partake in hobbies or other activities you enjoy. If you don’t like exercise (like many people) you can try to adapt a new routine to something you enjoy, like taking a walk or gardening. It may be difficult to make changes, but you can still make these changes work for you.

Don’t Play Doctor, Ever

As a diabetic, or anyone who is diagnosed with any condition, you should never make the independent decision to discontinue a medication without speaking with your health care provider first. Be sure to talk to your diabetes care provider about any problems you might be experiencing, and find out what medications are right for you.

Diabetics Never Get a Break From the Disease

People with diabetes never get a day off from their disease. There are good days, and there are bad days, but diabetics think about and deal with their condition every day. While many people live the rest of their lives the healthiest they can be, so many diabetics struggle with their disease regularly.

People with Diabetes Need Support

And it’s not just emotional support that’s needed to get through the hard times, which is also very important, but support comes in the form of awareness and potential treatment. If a diabetic is having a bad day and is hyper-or-hypoglycemic, someone may need to step in and offer treatment support.

There Are Many Other Possible Side Effects

Unfortunately, there are several other side effects of diabetes people do not like discussing like decreased sex drive and mood swings. But the family and friends who offer help (without acting judgmental or getting all “diabetes police”) are appreciated. Dealing with diabetes is a process and requires patience for all involved.

You Attitude Matters

If you or someone you know is diagnosed with diabetes, help with the adoption of healthy habits, such as making time to exercise or cook healthy meals together. Be there to talk and offer support. It can help the diabetic person cope and feel motivated to keep going. It can make living with diabetes far less frustrating, scary and isolating for the person with it.