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Diabetes

Facts, Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Your body changes most of the food you eat into glucose. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, allows glucose to enter all the cells of your body and be used as energy. Diabetes is a disease that occurs when a person's body doesn't make enough insulin or can't use insulin properly.

There are two types of diabetes:

  1. Type 1 occurs when the body doesn't produce any insulin;
  2. People with type 2 diabetes either don't produce enough insulin or their cells ignore the insulin. Nearly 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

Who should screen for Diabetes?

You should screen for diabetes if you have the following:

  • Family history of a parent or sibling with diabetes.
  • Overweight
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels.
  • Age above 40. Your risk of developing diabetes increases progressively as you get older.
  • Excessive Alcohol Use.
  • History of gestational diabetes (developing diabetes during pregnancy) or of delivering babies over nine pounds.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

Quite often there are no symptoms, especially in those suffering from type 2 diabetes. However, there are some warning signs:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling of the hands or feet
  • Slow-healing sores or cuts
  • Skin infection and itchiness around the genitals
 

I have Diabetes, how does it affect me?

Diabetes can be a dangerous and life-threatening disease if you don't control your blood sugar level. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage your eyes, blood vessels, nerves and kidneys. Here are some of the complications that diabetes can cause:

  • Blindness. Diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in the retina. It is the leading cause of blindness in people ages 20 to 74.
  • Heart disease. People with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have heart disease and damage to the blood vessels in the heart. This increases their risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Nerve, blood vessel damage and amputations. Damage to blood vessels in the legs can limit the supply of blood to the nerves in the legs and feet. This can make it difficult to feel injuries (such as foot sores). Damage to the blood vessels can also put you at risk for infections and sores that don't heal. In severe cases, parts of the foot or lower leg may have to be amputated (removed).
  • Kidney disease. Diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys, which then can't filter out the body's waste. In some people, the kidneys stop working completely. These people require dialysis (treatment that eliminates wastes in the blood) or a kidney transplant.

The good news is that diabetic complications can often be prevented by taking care of yourself, following your doctor's orders and controlling your blood sugar level.

What is the treatment for Diabetes?

  • Diet Control
  • Regular Exercise
  • Weight control
  • Oral medications
    Oral medications may be prescribed for type 2 diabetes to reduce blood sugar. These may not always be necessary. They can often be discontinued when body weight becomes normal.
  • Insulin
    Insulin by injection is prescribed for type 1 diabetes. The dosage must be individualized and occasionally adjusted. Normal therapy is 2 or more injections per day under the skin. Insulin is sometimes also prescribed for some individuals with type 2 diabetes.

How do I prevent complications?

Remember that although diabetes can't be cured, you can live a long and healthy life if you look after yourself well.

  • Practice good diabetes control.
    1. Keep blood-sugar levels close to normal (control diabetes). This is the most important thing you can do.
    2. Control your weight.
    3. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
    4. Get regular exercise. Please check with your doctor before you embark on any exercise programme.
    5. Have regular checkups. This allows your doctor to screen for complications. Finding problems early is the best way to keep complications from getting serious.
    6. Check your feet every day for minor cuts or blisters. Show them to your health care practitioner.
    7. Do not smoke.
  • Also be aware of worsening of symptoms of diabetes or chest pain and tell your doctor.

WHERE CAN I GET HELP?

Diabetic Society of Singapore
(DSS) 18 Ang Mo Kio Ave 9 #02-12
AMK Community Hospital)
Singapore 560766
Tel: 64506132/64506142

Sembawang-HongKah Diabetes Education & Care Centre
Hong Kah West Community Club 8
Jurong West Street 52 #03-04
Singapore 649296
Tel: 65649818/65649819

Touch Diabetes Support Association (DSA)
3615 Jalan Bukit Merah
3rd Floor, TOUCH Community Theatre Singapore 159461
Tel: 63770122