Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as just “diabetes”, is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels. This elevation of the glucose levels can result from either the body’s lack of insulin production or from defects in the body's ability to use insulin.

The more common  is type 2 diabetes which affects millions of Americans. This form of diabetes usually affects adults (but due to the obesity epidemic is also now affecting children) and is more common in groups such as  African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. In type 2 diabetes, the body does not effectively utilize the insulin that was produced by the body and eventually will not produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels. Patients with type 2 diabetes can try various treatments for their diabetes, including lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) oral medications and various injectable therapies, including insulin. If diabetes is not adequately controlled it can lead to significant cardiovascular complications.

Gestational diabetes is yet another type of diabetes, where, during pregnancy women develop elevated glucose readings due to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Having gestational diabetes doesn't mean that you had diabetes before you conceived, or that you will have diabetes after giving birth, however the risk for the development of type 2 diabetes is quite high. It is very important that you maintain excellent glucose control throughout the pregnancy as complications can develop with uncontrolled gestational diabetes.

Checking Glucose Readings

Blood glucose (blood sugar) is what is measured to diagnose diabetes and  ensure that the overall control during any treatment is adequate. Checking glucose readings by a doctor will help in the diagnosis and control through routine blood work. However, once diagnosed with diabetes, checking your glucose readings at home with a glucometer, will assist in the management of diabetes. Every patient with diabetes can benefit from checking their blood glucose with a glucometer. The frequency of testing will vary by patient and by the medication regimen that they are on. It is important that you keep a log of your results and review them with your team to gauge how well your diabetes plan is working. These values are important not only for your team, but for yourself to give you a better understanding about how your dietary habits, lifestyle changes, exercise or illnesses can affect your glucose levels.

Signs & Symptoms of Diabetes

Increased thirst & urination
When you have diabetes, excess sugar (glucose) builds up in your blood. Your kidneys are forced to work overtime to filter and absorb the excess sugar. If your kidneys can't keep up, the excess sugar is excreted into your urine along with fluids drawn from your tissues. This triggers more frequent urination, which may leave you dehydrated. As you drink more fluids to quench your thirst, you'll urinate even more.

Weight fluctuations
also fall under the umbrella of possible diabetes signs and symptoms. When you lose sugar through frequent urination, you also lose calories. At the same time, diabetes may keep the sugar from your food from reaching your cells — leading to constant hunger. The combined effect is potentially rapid weight loss, especially if you have type 1 diabetes.

How do I treat hypoglycemia?

The quickest way to raise your blood glucose and treat hypoglycemia is with some form of sugar.  Many people with diabetes like to carry glucose tablets. You can get glucose tablets at any drugstore and at many other stores as well.

Other sources of sugar or simple carbohydrates also work well to treat hypoglycemia, such as fruit juice, hard candies, or pretzels or crackers.  The important thing is to get at least 15-20 grams of sugars or carbohydrates. A food's nutrition label can tell you how much you need to eat of that food to get enough to treat an episode of hypoglycemia.  To treat hypoglycemia you should stick with something that is mostly sugar or carbohydrates. Foods that have a lot of fat as well as sugars and carbohydrates, such as chocolate or cookies, do not work as quickly to raise blood glucose levels.