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Diabetes

How Is Diabetes Managed?

Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, everyone with type 1 diabetes died within a few years after diagnosis. Although insulin is not considered a cure, its discovery was the first major breakthrough in diabetes treatment.

Today, healthy eating, physical activity, and insulin via injection or an insulin pump are the basic therapies for type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose checking.

Healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing are the basic management tools for type 2 diabetes. In addition, many people with type 2 diabetes require oral medication and insulin to control their blood glucose levels.

People with diabetes must take responsibility for their day-to-day care. Much of the daily care involves keeping blood glucose levels from going too low or too high. When blood glucose levels drop too low from certain diabetes medicines--a condition known as hypoglycemia--a person can become nervous, shaky, and confused. Judgment can be impaired. If blood glucose falls too low, a person can faint.

A person can also become ill if blood glucose levels rise too high, a condition known as hyperglycemia.

People with diabetes should see a doctor who helps them learn to manage their diabetes and monitors their diabetes control. An endocrinologist is one type of doctor who may specialize in diabetes care. In addition, people with diabetes often see ophthalmologists for eye examinations, podiatrists for routine foot care, and dietitians and diabetes educators to help teach the skills of day-to-day diabetes management.

The goal of diabetes management is to keep blood glucose levels as close to the normal range as safely possible. A recent major study, the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), showed that keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as safely possible reduces the risk of developing major complications of type 1 diabetes.

The 10-year study, completed in 1993, included 1,441 people with type 1 diabetes. The study compared the effect of two treatment approaches--intensive management and standard management--on the development and progression of eye, kidney, and nerve complications of diabetes. Intensive treatment aimed at keeping hemoglobin A-1-c as close to normal (6 percent) as possible. Hemoglobin A-1-c reflects average blood sugar over a 2- to 3-month period. Researchers found that study participants who maintained lower levels of blood glucose through intensive management had significantly lower rates of these complications. More recently, a followup study of DCCT participants showed that the ability of intensive control to lower the complications of diabetes persists up to 4 years after the trial ended.

The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study, a European study completed in 1998, showed that intensive control of blood glucose and blood pressure reduced the risk of blindness, kidney disease, stroke, and heart attack in people with type 2 diabetes.







References and Sources: Medline, Pubmed, National Institutes of Health.


last update: December 2008


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