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Understanding Diabetes

Updated on November 30, 2020
Kulsum Mehmood profile image

Kulsum Mehmood is an Eye Consultant in a Private Eye Institute. She is a single mother. She likes to write and can cook delicious meals.


What Is Diabetes ?

Understanding Diabetes

How The Body Uses Food

Understanding how your body turns food into energy and how diabetes changes this process helps you understand why you need to control your diabetes.

Food is changed into glucose.

Your stomach changes the food you eat into a fuel called glucose, a form of sugar.

Glucose goes into the bloodstream and is carried to the millions of cells in your body.

Glucose gets into the cells.

An organ called the pancreas make a chemical called insulin.

Insulin also goes into the bloodstream and travels to the cells. Here it meets glucose at the cell receptors or doorways.

Insulin then acts like a key, unlocking the receptors so that the glucose can enter the cells.

Cells turn glucose into energy.

The cells metabolise ( burn ) the glucose to give the body energy.


Diabetes is a condition in which sugar ( glucose ) cannot enter the cells and remains in blood in high amounts. The sugar builds up in the blood and overflows into the urine, passing out of the body unused. Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause serious health problems.


Diabetes makes it harder for your body to get energy from food. That's why diabetes can make you feel tired and run down.

Food is changed into glucose.

Your stomach still changes the food you eat into glucose. Glucose goes into the bloodstream. But.....

Glucose can't get into the cells.

Glucose and insulin meet at the cells, but most of the glucose may not be able to enter the cells because :

  • There may not be enough insulin.
  • There may be plenty of insulin, but it can't unlock the receptors.
  • There may be too few receptors for all the glucose to get through.

Cells can't make energy.

Most of the glucose stays in your bloodstream. This is called hyperglycemia also known as high blood sugar.

Without enough glucose in your cells, your cells can't make the energy needed to keep your body running smoothly.


Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetes

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetes?

People with diabetes experience different signs and symptoms. You may experience all, some, or none of the following :

  • Frequent urination
  • Itchy skin
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Numbness or tingling in feet
  • Excessive thirst
  • Slow healing of cuts/wounds
  • Always being very hungry
  • Weight loss
  • Skin infections

What Are The Consequences Of Not Controlling Diabetes?

High blood glucose for long periods of time is toxic.

Over time, high glucose damages your blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and nerves leading to complications and permanent damage to vital organs of your body.

  • Nerve problems or neuropathy can cause you to lose feeling in your feet or other parts of your body.
  • Disease of blood vessels, arteriosclerosis, can lead to heart attack, stroke and circulation problems.
  • Eye problems include damage to blood vessels in the eyes ( retinopathy ) pressure in the eye ( glaucoma ) and clouding of the eye's lens ( cataract ).
  • Kidney disease, nephropathy, stops the kidneys from cleaning waste out of your blood.
  • High blood pressure, hypertension, makes your heart work harder to pump your blood.

Diabetes ... testing blood sugar level

Different Types Of Diabetes

What Are The Different Types Of Diabates?

There are mainly two types of diabetes :

Type 1 diabetes

In type 1 diabetes, the body makes little or no Insulin. People with this type of diabetes must take Insulin shots to live. That's why you sometimes hear it referred to as "Insulin - dependent diabetes". Although it usually begins when people are young, it may occur at any age.

Type 2 diabetes

In type 2 diabetes your body may still make Insulin, but it either doesn't make enough Insulin or it is unable to correctly use the Insulin it does make. Type 2 is also referred as "Non - Insulin dependent diabetes mellitus" ( NIDDM ). It can be treated with proper meal planning and exercise, oral medicines and/or Insulin. Although diabetes can occur in younger people, it is most often seen in people over 40 years of age.

Diabetic diet .....

Reduce your daily fat intake. When you eat less fat you eat fewer calories. This prevents obesity and limits increase of blood cholesterol and the complications such as stroke, peripheral vascular disease and heart attack.

Avoid intake of bad carbs These include sugar, white flour and rice, and sweeteners used in some soft drinks and processed foods. They are low in fibre, so they are absorbed quickly, causing blood sugar to rise. This stimulates your pancreas to produce insulin. Repeated surges of insulin may make your body resistant to it, which causes more to be made. This may lead to diabetes.

Consume plenty of good carbs. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and soy. All are rich in fibre, which makes you feel full, prevents overeating and helps keep your blood sugar steady.

Fruits ... anti - oxidants

Medications Available To Treat Diabetes


  1. Oral Medications
  2. Insulin

Oral Medications

There are several types of oral medications. All of them help the body to produce more Insulin or help in using the Insulin produced by the body more effectively. Your doctor is the best judge in deciding which medication suits you.


What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone ( Chemical ) that is produced by the pancreas. It controls the level of blood sugar, also called glucose, in your body.

How does Insulin work?

Insulin is required for sugar ( glucose ) to enter the cells of the body where it is utilized. Insulin acts as a key, which opens the doors of the cells to allow sugar to enter.

Who needs Insulin?

All people with type 1 diabetes, and some people with type 2 diabetes, need to take Insulin to help control their blood sugar levels especially when tablets are no longer effective.

In what forms is Insulin available?

Insulin is available in two forms :

  1. Vials ( to be used with Insulin syringes )
  2. Penfill Cartridges ( to be used with Insulin pen )

Each vial contains 10 ml of Insulin solution or suspension, while the penfills are available in 3 ml cartridges.

What are the different strengths, in which Insulin is available?

At present Insulins are available in two strengths that is 40 IU/ml and 100 IU/ml. It means that each ml of 100 IU/ml Insulin contains 2.5 times more Insulin than 40 IU/ml Insulin. It is important that you use the same strength of Insulin every time, and use the right Insulin syringe with your Insulin.

How do I inject Insulin?

Insulin is normally injected under the skin with a very small needle. It can also be injected with an Insulin pen.

Your doctor will teach you exactly how to inject Insulin.

Here are some tips :

  • Choose the right Insulin syringe to match the strength of Insulin you use

i.e. 40 IU/ml syringe with 40 IU/ml Insulin.

  • If you use cloudy Insulin, gently mix the Insulin by either rolling the vial between the palms of your hands or turning the vial over from end to end a few times.
  • Bring the Insulin to room temperature before injecting.
  • Draw air into the syringe in an amount corresponding to the required dose of Insulin.
  • Slowly inject the air into the vial held vertically at eye level.
  • Draw up ample Insulin. Gently tap the syringe to remove air bubbles.
  • Inject the excess amount of Insulin back into the vial and pull out the needle.
  • Lift up the skin at the site of injection in a broad fold and insert the needle straight into the subcutaneous tissue.
  • Inject the Insulin slowly. Then press a finger against the injection site while pulling out the needle.

Where do I inject Insulin ?

Insulin is injected into the fat on your body. There are certain areas where you can inject your Insulin. Here are some tips :

  • Give your injection straight into the skin, unless told otherwise.
  • Rotate your shots. Using the same spot may cause the area to get lumpy or tough. Your shot should be at least one inch apart from the last one.
  • Different areas use Insulin differently. The stomach area works best and fastest.
  • Try using the same area for a while and then switch. Switching areas all the time may make it difficult to figure out how your Insulin will work for you.

How often will I need to take Insulin ?

Your doctor will give you a schedule. Most people with diabetes need at least 2 Insulin shots a day. Some people need 3 to 4 shots for good blood sugar control.

What are the side effects of Insulin ?

The major side effect of Insulin therapy is hypoglycemia. Diabetics should be aware of the risk, and carry some sweets in their pocket or bag to be taken when there are early warning signs of hypoglycemia. Other side effects of Insulin injections include itching and rash and reduction or increase in fat tissue at the sites where Insulin is injected.

How do I minimize itching and rash ?

Itching and rash can be avoided or minimized by using purer form of Insulin and by systematically rotating the injection sites.

What happens if I take too much Insulin ?

If you take too much Insulin it will lower your blood sugar level too much, and you may get hypoglycemia ( also called an Insulin reaction ). When you have hypoglycemia, you may feel cranky, more tired than usual, confused and shaky, and you may sweat more. You may get a headache, have a rapid heartbeat, or feel more hungry. In serious cases, you can pass out or have a seizure.

What are the guidelines to be followed for storing Insulin ?

How you store your Insulin is important. Improper storage may cause your Insulin to not work as well as it should. Follow these guidelines for storing your Insulin :

  • Store Insulin in the refrigerator at the recommended temperature of 36- 46 deg. F.
  • Do not use Insulin that has been frozen.
  • If you cannot store your Insulin in a refrigerator, keep it in a cool and dark place.
  • Do not use it if you see any clumps in the vial.
  • Keep Insulin away from direct sunlight.
  • The Insulin vial in use may be kept at room temperature upto one month.
  • Do not let your Insulin freeze or leave it in a hot place.


© 2008 Dr Kulsum Mehmood


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