If you have been diagnosed with diabetes you should know how important it is to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Blood sugar levels that are too high can have a negative impact on your health and can even lead to death. Monitoring your blood sugar levels on a regular basis will help you to lead a healthy life and will protect you against life-threatening conditions that can be associated with diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic, lifelong disease where blood sugar levels are elevated. The key hormone that is involved is a hormone produced by the pancreas, known as insulin. Insulin is essential in maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Individuals who have diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin, or their cells are resistant to insulin – they may even have a combination of both factors.
When an individual eats food, glucose (sugar) enters the bloodstream. Glucose is a source of fuel that the body uses on a regular basis. Insulin is responsible for removing the glucose from the bloodstream and taking it to the muscle, fat or liver cells where is can be used as fuel. In diabetics, blood sugar levels are high because the glucose is not being removed from the bloodstream and taken into the muscle, fat or liver cells to be used as energy because the pancreas is either not producing enough insulin or their cells are not responding to insulin correctly.
Different Types of Diabetes
The three main types of diabetes include:
Type 1 Diabetes – is usually diagnosed in children, teens and young adults. In this form of diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin. Daily injections of insulin are required.
Type 2 Diabetes – this is the most common cause of diabetes and is usually diagnosed in adults although more and more children are being diagnosed with this disease.
Gestational Diabetes – this refers to high blood sugar levels during pregnancy in individuals that do not normally have diabetes.
Risks Associated with High Blood Sugar Levels
There are many symptoms associated with high blood sugar levels including: blurry vision, thirst, frequent urination, hunger and/or weight loss. However, if blood sugar levels are not corrected, severe complications can arise, including diabetic hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome and diabetic ketoacidosis.
Diabetic hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome occurs when there are extremely high levels of glucose in the blood, dehydration and decreased consciousness. When dehydration occurs, the kidneys do not work effectively and are unable to get rid of excess glucose in the body. As a result the glucose levels in the blood begin to rise and the blood becomes more concentrated (hyperosmolarity) with salt, glucose and other substances that normally cause water to move into the bloodstream. As a result, water is drawn out from other organs of the body, including the brain. Hyperosmolarity causes a cycle of high blood glucose levels and dehydration in the body. Treatment includes correcting dehydration via intravenous fluid and potassium. Glucose levels are also corrected using intravenous insulin. Individuals who develop this condition are at risk of dying with up to 40% of cases of this condition resulting in death.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is another serious complication of diabetes and occurs when the body is unable to use glucose for fuel because of a lack of insulin. Instead, the body uses fat for fuel. When fat is being used as a fuel source, the acids that are formed during breakdown (ketones) can buildup in the blood and urine. High levels of ketones are poisonous to the body. Treatment for ketoacidosis involves correcting blood sugar levels with insulin therapy, as well as fluid and electrolyte therapy. Diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to serious illness and even death because of fluid buildup in the brain, heart attack and/or kidney failure.
There are many complications associated with diabetes, including diabetic hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome and diabetic ketoacidosis, both of which can result in death. It is vital to your health and well-being to regularly check your blood sugar levels. Additionally, regularly visiting your doctor will help to maintain your blood sugar levels in the normal range and protect you from potentially life-threatening diabetic complications.