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Diabetes management

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Diabetes is a chronic disease with no cure as of 2006. It is associated with an impaired glucose cycle, altering cell metabolism. Management of this disease may include lifestyle modifications such as achieving and maintaining proper weight, diet, exercise and foot care.
Diabetes mellitus
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus type 1
Diabetes mellitus type 2
Gestational diabetes

Impaired fasting glycaemia
Impaired glucose tolerance

Disease Management
Diabetes management:
Diabetic diet
Anti-diabetic drugs
Conventional insulinotherapy
Intensive insulinotherapy
Other Concerns
Cardiovascular disease

Diabetic comas:
Diabetic hypoglycemia
Diabetic ketoacidosis
Nonketotic hyperosmolar

Diabetic myonecrosis
Diabetic nephropathy
Diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetes and pregnancy

Blood tests
Glucose tolerance test
Glycosylated hemoglobin

Early advancements

Late in the nineteenth century, sugar in the urine (glycosuria) was associated with diabetes. Various doctors studied the connection. Frederick Madison Allen studied diabetes in 1909-12, then published a large volume, Studies Concerning Glycosuria and Diabetes, (Boston, 1913). He invented a fasting treatment for diabetes called the Allen treatment for diabetes. His diet was an early attempt at managing diabetes.

Anti-diabetic drug Therapy

Currently, the goal for diabetics is to avoid or minimize chronic diabetic complications, as well as to avoid acute problems of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. Adequate control of diabetes leads to lower risk of complications associated with unmonitered diabetes including kidney failure (requiring dialysis or transplant), blindness, heart disease and limb amputation. The most prevalent form of medication is hypoglycemic treatment through either oral hypoglycemics and/or insulin therapy. There is emerging evidence that full-blown diabetes mellitus type 2 can be evaded in those with only mildly impaired glucose tolerance.[1]

Patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus require direct injection of insulin as their bodies cannot produce enough (or even any) insulin. As of 2005, there is no other clinically available form of insulin administration other than injection for patients with type 1: injection can be done by insulin pump, by jet injector, or any of several forms of hypodermic needle. There are several insulin application mechanisms under experimental development as of 2004. There have also been proposed vaccines for type I using glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), but these are currently not being tested by the pharmaceutical companies that have sublicensed the patents to them.

For type 2 diabetics, diabetic management consists of a combination of diet, exercise, and weight loss, in any achievable combination depending on the patient. Patients who have poor diabetic control after lifestyle modifications are typically placed on oral hypoglycemics. Some Type 2 diabetics eventually fail to respond to these and must proceed to insulin therapy.

Patient education and compliance with treatment is very important in managing the disease. Improper use of medications and insulin can be very dangerous causing hypo- or hyper-glycemic episodes.

Insulin therapy requires close monitoring and a great deal of patient education, as improper administration is quite dangerous. For example, when food intake is reduced, less insulin is required. A previously satisfactory dosing may be too much if less food is consumed causing a hypoglycemic reaction if not intelligently adjusted. In addition, exercise decreases insulin requirements as exercise increases glucose uptake by body cells whose glucose uptake is controlled by insulin, and vice versa. In addition, there are available several types of insulin with varying times of onset and duration of action.

Insulin therapy creates risk because of the inability to continuously know a person's blood glucose level and adjust insulin infusion appropriately. New advances in technology have overcome much of this problem. Small, portable insulin infusion pumps are available from several manufacturers. They allow a continuous infusion of small amounts of insulin to be delivered through the skin around the clock, plus the ability to give bolus doses when a person eats or has elevated blood gluose levels. This is very similar to how the pancreas works, but these pumps lack a continuous "feed-back" mechanism. Thus, the user is still at risk of giving too much or too little insulin unless blood glucose measurements are made.

The expense, inconvenience and discomfort of frequent blood glucose measurements has been limited until recently. A new device, Paradigm REAL-Time by Minimed, is a blood glucose monitoring device that provides blood glucose measurements to be made every five minutes. The patient can thus adjust an insulin infusion pump immediately and mimic the "feed-back" mechanism of a pancreas. Significant reductions in complications of therapy have been demonstrated and reductions in long-term complications from diabetes mellitus are projected.


Main article: Diabetic diet

For some Type 2 diabetics they can control the disease entirely by changes to their diets. For most Type 1 diabetics there will always be a need for some insulin injections throughout their life. However, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics can see dramatic normalization of their blood sugars through controlling their diet. One diet in particular is "The Diabetic Diet" as described in the book of the same title as well as a more comprehensive book on blood glucose normalizations in the book Diabetes Solution [1] both of which are written by Dr. Richard K. Bernstein who has had Type 1 diabetes for the past 55 years . As diabetes can lead to many other complications as referenced below it is critical to maintain blood sugars as close to normal as possible and diet is the leading factor in this level of control. Dr. Bernstein shows through his own experiences and through research that lowering the amount of carbohydrates in a diabetics diet can reduce the amount of insulin required and improve the management of the disease significantly. There are many other useful diet resources available to diabetics as well as from a patient's doctor, nurse and dietitian.

Other treatment

As diabetes is a prime risk factor for cardiovascular disease, controlling other risk factors as well as the diabetes is one of the facets of diabetes management. Checking cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels may indicate hyperlipoproteinemia, which may warrant treatment with hypolipidemic drugs. Checking the blood pressure and keeping it within strict limits (using diet and antihypertensive treatment) protects against the retinal, renal and cardiovascular complications of diabetes. Regular follow-up by podiatrist or other foot health specialists is encouraged to prevent the development of diabetic foot.

Exercise is known to be helpful,[How to reference and link to summary or text] as mentioned elsewhere in this article. A pilot study has also found evidence that Tai Chi and qigong reduce the severity of type 2 diabetes.[2]



An older style portable blood glucose meter. A blood sample is applied to an inserted strip (see image below) and color changes caused by reaction with blood glucose are measured by the meter.

Optimal management of diabetes involves patients measuring and recording their own blood glucose testing at home. By keeping a diary of their own blood glucose measurements and noting the effect of food and exercise, patients can modify their lifestyle to better control their diabetes. For patients on insulin, patient involvement is important in achieving effective dosing and timing.

Relying on their own perceptions of symptoms of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia is usually unsatisfactory as mild to moderate hyperglycemia causes no obvious symptoms in nearly all patients. Other considerations include the fact that, while food takes several hours to be digested and absorbed, insulin administration can have glucose lowering effects for as little as 2 hours or 24 hours or more (depending on the nature of the insulin preparation used and individual patient reaction). In addition, the onset and duration of the effects of oral hypoglycemic agents vary from type to type and from patient to patient.

A useful test that has usually been done in a laboratory is the measurement of blood HbA1c levels. This is the ratio of glycosylated hemoglobin in relation to the total hemoglobin. Persistent raised plasma glucose levels cause the proportion of these cells to go up. This is a test that measures the average amount of diabetic control over a period originally thought to be about 3 months (the average red blood cell lifetime), but more recently thought to be more strongly weighted to the most recent 2 to 4 weeks. In the non-diabetic, the HbA1C level ranges from 4.0-6.4%; patients with diabetes mellitus who manage to keep their HbA1C level below 7.0% are considered to have good glycemic control. The HbA1c test is not appropriate if there has been changes to diet or treatment within shorter time periods than 6 weeks or there is disturbance of red cell aging (e.g. recent bleeding or hemolytic anemia) or a hemoglobinopathy (e.g. sickle cell disease). In such cases the alternative Fructosamine test is used to indicate average control in the preceding 2 to 3 weeks.

Regular blood testing, especially in type 1 diabetics, is essential to keep adequate control of glucose levels and to reduce the chance of long term sideffects of the disease. There are many (at least 20+) different types of blood monitoring devices available on the market today; not every meter suits all patients and it is a specific matter of choice for the patient, in consultation with a physician or other experienced professional, to find a meter that they personally find comfortable to use. The principle of the devices is virtually the same: a small blood sample is collected and measured. In one type of meter, the electrochemical, a small blood sample is produced by the patient using a lancet (a sterile pointed needle). The blood droplet is usually collected at the bottom of a test strip, while the other end is inserted in the glucose meter. This test strip contains various chemicals so that when the blood is applied, a small electrical charge is created between two contacts. This charge will vary depending on the glucose levels within the blood. In older glucose meters, the drop of blood is placed on top of a strip. A chemical reaction occurs and the strip changes color. The meter then measures the color of the strip optically.

The result displayed on a glucose meter is either in mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter in the USA) or mmol/L (millimoles per litre in Canada and Europe) of blood. The average normal person should have a glucose level of around 4.5 to 7.0 mmol/L (80 to 125 mg/dL). In the diabetic patient a before-meal level of <6.1 mmol/L (<110 mg/dL) and a level two hours after the start of a meal of <7.8 mmol/L (<140 mg/dL) is acceptable.[citation needed]

A level of <3.8 mmol/L (<70 mg/dL) is usually described as a hypoglycaemic attack. Most diabetics know when they're going to "go hypo" and usually are able to eat some food or drink something sweet to raise levels. A patient who is hyperglycemic (high glucose) can also become temporarily hypoglycemic, under certain conditions (e.g. not eating regularly, or after strenuous exercise, followed by fatigue).

Levels greater than 13-15 mmol/L (230-270 mg/dL) should be monitored closely and the patient is advised to seek urgent medical attention as soon as possible if this continues to rise after 2-3 tests.

Hyperglycemia is not as easy to detect as hypoglycemia and usually happens over a period of days rather than hours or minutes. If left untreated, this can result in diabetic coma and death.

Blood glucose test strip2

A blood glucose test strip for an older style (ie, optical color sensing) monitoring system

Prolonged and elevated levels of glucose in the blood, which is left unchecked and untreated, will, over time, result in serious diabetic complications and sometimes even death. It is therefore highly important that a diabetic patient checks their blood levels either daily or every few days to see what levels they are achieving over a given period of time. There is also computer software for the PC which is available from blood testing manufacturers which can display results and trends over time. Type 1 patients will have to check on a more regular daily basis due to insulin therapy, which is a fine art to master. The US Food and Drug Administration has also approved a non-invasive blood glucose monitoring device [2]. This allows checking blood glucose levels, while puncturing the skin as little as twice a day. Once calibrated with a blood sample, it pulls body fluids from the skin using small electrical currents, taking six readings an hour for as long as thirteen hours. It has not proven to be reliable enough, or convenient enough to be used in lieu of conventional blood monitoring. Other non-invasive methods like radio waves, ultrasound and energy waves are also being tested.

These results are especially useful for the diabetic to present to their doctor or physician in the monitoring and control of the disease. Failure to maintain a strict regimen of testing can accelerate symptoms of the condition, and it is therefore imperative that any diabetic patient strictly monitor their glucose levels regularly.

Home blood glucose monitoring

Control and outcomes of both types 1 and 2 diabetes may be improved by patients using home glucose meters to regularly measure their glucose levels.[3] Glucose monitoring is both expensive (largely due to the cost of the consumable test strips) and requires significant commitment on the part of the patient. The effort and expense may be worthwhile for patients when they use the values to sensibly adjust food, exercise, and oral medications or insulin. These adjustments are generally made by the patients themselves following training by a clinician.

Self-testing is clearly important in type I diabetes where the use of insulin therapy risks episodes of hypoglycaemia and home-testing allows for adjustment of dosage on each administration.[4] However its benefit in type 2 diabetes is more controversial as there is much more variation in severity of type 2 cases.[5] It has been suggested that some type 2 patients might do as well with home urine-testing alone.[6] The best use of home blood-sugar monitoring is being researched.[7]

Benefits of control and reduced hospital admission have been reported.[8] However patients on oral medication who do not self-adjust their drug dosage will miss many of the benefits of self-testing, and so it is questionable in this group. This is particularly so for patients taking monotherapy with metformin who are not at risk of hypoglycaemia. Regular 6 monthly laboratory testing of HbAc1 (glycated haemoglobin) provides some assurance of longterm effective control and allows the adjustment of the patient's routine medication dosages in such cases. High frequency of self-testing in type 2 diabetes has not been shown to be associated with improved control.[9] The argument is made, though, that type 2 patients with poor long term control despite home blood glucose monitoring, either have not had this integrated into their overall management, or are long overdue for tighter control by a switch from oral medication to injected insulin.[10]


  1. Tuomilehto J, Lindström J, Eriksson J, Valle T, Hämäläinen H, Ilanne-Parikka P, Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi S, Laakso M, Louheranta A, Rastas M, Salminen V, Uusitupa M (2001). Prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus by changes in lifestyle among subjects with impaired glucose tolerance.. N Engl J Med 344 (18): 1343-50. PMID 11333990.
  2. includeonly>Melanie Christiansen. "Tai Chi a promising remedy for diabetes", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 20 December, 2005. - Pilot study of qigong and T'ai Chi in diabetes sufferers.
  3. Gray A, Raikou M, McGuire A, Fenn P, Stevens R, Cull C, Stratton I, Adler A, Holman R, Turner R (2000). Cost effectiveness of an intensive blood glucose control policy in patients with type 2 diabetes: economic analysis alongside randomised controlled trial (UKPDS 41). United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study Group. BMJ 320 (7246): 1373–8. PMID 10818026.
  4. Evans JM, Newton RW, Ruta DA, MacDonald TM, Stevenson RJ, Morris AD (1999). Frequency of blood glucose monitoring in relation to glycaemic control: observational study with diabetes database. BMJ 319 (7202): 83–6. PMID 10398627.
  5. Gallichan M (1997). Self monitoring of glucose by people with diabetes: evidence based practice. BMJ 314 (7085): 964–7. PMID 9099125.
  6. Chantelau E, Nowicki S (1997). Self monitoring of glucose by people with diabetes. Patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes should monitor urine rather than blood glucose. BMJ 315 (7101): 185. PMID 9251556.
  7. Farmer A, Wade A, French DP, Goyder E, Kinmonth AL, Neil A (2005). The DiGEM trial protocol—a randomised controlled trial to determine the effect on glycaemic control of different strategies of blood glucose self-monitoring in people with type 2 diabetes [ISRCTN47464659]. BMC Fam Pract 6: 25. PMID 15960852.
  8. Kibriya MG, Ali L, Banik NG, Khan AK (1999). Home monitoring of blood glucose (HMBG) in Type-2 diabetes mellitus in a developing country. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 46 (3): 253–7. PMID 10624792.
  9. Jaworska J, Dziemidok P, Kulik TB, Rudnicka-Drozak E (2004). Frequency of self-monitoring and its effect on metabolic control in patients with type 2 diabetes. Ann Univ Mariae Curie Sklodowska [Med] 59 (1): 310–6. PMID 16146003.
  10. Roach P (2004). Better systems, not guidelines, for glucose monitoring. BMJ 329 (7479): E332. PMID 15591539.

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