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Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes often goes unrecognised – sometimes for years. While diabetics with so-called type 1 diabetes rely on insulin, type 2 diabetics are often helped by losing weight, exercising more and having a healthy, balanced diet.

eye structure showing diabetes retinopathy

A question of type

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes, because this form usually occurs in children and young people. It is probably due to the body’s own immune system that in type 1 diabetes, the body turns against the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and destroys them. This reduces the production of insulin, and often disrupts it completely. The vast majority of diabetics (approx. 80%) are type 2 diabetics. The previous name, “adult onset diabetes”, is no longer applicable as young people too are increasingly suffering from type 2. Risk factors for this type of diabetes, in addition to genetic disposition and age, are primarily excess weight, high blood pressure and fat metabolism disorders, as well as lack of exercise – a genuine problem in many countries around the world. The body no longer responds adequately to the hormone, because either the effect of insulin or insulin production in the pancreas is disrupted, or is no longer adequate for the excess weight being carried. In this case, losing a small amount of weight is often enough to improve the metabolic status.

How does diabetes occur?

In diabetics, the pancreas either no longer produces enough insulin, or does not produce any at all. Our body needs this essential hormone to move sugar (carbohydrates) from the blood into the cells. If the mechanism is disrupted, this is reflected in an elevated blood sugar level. If untreated, in the long run diabetes can cause damage to large and small vessels in the heart, eyes, nerves and kidneys. woman measuring glucose level The most common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Weight loss (with type 1 diabetes)
  • Dry mouth and extreme thirst
  • Strong urge to urinate
  • Exhaustion and poor concentration
  • Blurred vision
  • Fungal infections and frequently recurring cystitis
  • Itchy skin

A blood test clarifies matters

You don’t have to see your GP to test your blood sugar; chemists offer this service too. Using a device to measure your blood sugar and a tiny amount of blood from your fingertip, you can discover the result in a few seconds. If diabetes mellitus runs in your family, you are suffering from typical symptoms or are overweight – an annual blood sugar test is recommended. The fasting value should be between 80 and 120 milligrams per decilitre. Tell your GP if diabetes runs in your family, and discuss your blood sugar values with him or her. Treatment can then be started in good time and your health is protected. foot with wounds

Diabetes: what is important in treatment

Blood sugar checks, an appropriate diet, regular exercise and, if necessary, individual treatment, either with insulin or tablets, are the basics of diabetes treatment. In order for those affected to put their knowledge into practice, they need specific training about how to manage their condition. Type 1 diabetics must adjust the amount of insulin exactly to their diet. For both types of diabetes, a low-fat diet rich in fibre and tailored to their requirements, as well as regular exercise, are the keys to success. It’s even possible to enjoy normal sugary foods. The German Diabetes Society (DDG) recommends the following: a maximum of 10% of your daily calorie intake should come from sugary foods (for example, yoghurt with sugar, chocolate etc.). With a daily calorie intake of around 2,000 calories, this means approximately 50 grams of sugar. This could be, for example, a bowl of fruit yoghurt, 2 bars of chocolate and a small slice of cake. Of course, you must always be aware of your blood sugar level. To keep your weight in a healthy range and lose excess pounds, you shouldn’t use up your full quota every day.

Tips for healthy diabetes – diet

  • It’s not so difficult to put these recommendations into practice. They are actually the same rules that everyone who wants a healthy metabolism should follow:
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables (5 portions every day)
  • Eat foods containing carbohydrates regularly throughout the day
  • Eat fibre-rich foods such as wholegrain products or pulses every day
  • Opt for low-fat foods
  • Use high-quality plant oils such as rapeseed and olive oil
  • Lose excess weight and avoid gaining weight in the first place
  • Drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of fluid a day: mineral water and unsugared tea are ideal
  • Eat as little sugar, sweets etc. as possible medicine vials and syringe

First-aid for low blood sugar

The symptoms of a low blood sugar level suffered by diabetics, such as sweating, paleness, irritability, shaking etc., differ between individuals. In many diabetics, symptoms occur at the level of 50 milligrams per decilitre, with others when the value is higher and in others at lower values. There are many reasons for this, for example if you have recently taken part in sport, if too little has been eaten or too much insulin has been injected. In the case of a low blood sugar level, glucose or a sugar-rich drink should be consumed immediately. A blood sugar test will also clarify matters. People who regularly take part in sport should check their blood sugar before and after training, and eat an extra portion of carbohydrates, for example a banana or a muesli bar, before starting. One very important thing: always keep a source of glucose in your pocket so that it’s immediately to hand in an emergency.