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Treatment of Diabetes

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Although diabetes cannot be cured, it can be treated very successfully. Knowing why people with diabetes develop high blood sugar levels will help you to understand how some of the treatments work.

Glucose comes from the ingestion of sugary or starchy foods. If someone has diabetes they have high levels of glucose (sugar) circulating in their blood stream that isn't used by cells or turned into energy, this is why people with untreated diabetes often feel tired. The unused glucose passes into the urine, pulling water with it. This is why people with untreated diabetes pass large amounts of urine and are extremely thirsty.

Glucose levels are usually controlled by a hormone called insulin. Insulin is made in a gland close to the stomach called the pancreas. Diabetes develops either because there is not enough insulin being made by the pancreas, or the insulin being made is not working properly.

People with untreated diabetes may also lose weight because fat tissue and protein (mainly from muscle) are broken down as an alternative energy source.

Type 1 diabetes is treated by injections of insulin and a healthy diet.

Type 2 diabetes is treated by a healthy diet or by a combination of a healthy diet, tablets and occasionally other injectable therapies. Sometimes people with Type 2 diabetes also have insulin injections, although they are not totally 'dependent' on the insulin.

Treatments for Type 1 diabetes

People with Type 1 diabetes need injections of insulin for the rest of their lives and also need to eat a healthy diet that contains the right balance of foods. Insulin cannot be readily taken by mouth because it is destroyed by the digestive juices in the stomach. People with this type of diabetes commonly take either two or four injections of insulin each day. If you or someone close to you needs insulin injections, your doctor or diabetes nurse will talk to you, show you how to do them and give you support and help.

They will also show you how you can do a simple blood or urine test at home to measure your glucose levels. This will enable you to adjust your insulin and diet according to your daily routine.

Your doctor or diabetes nurse will advise you what to do if your glucose level is too low. If you have Type 1 diabetes, your insulin injections are vital to keep you alive and you must have them every day.

Treatments for Type 2 diabetes

People with Type 2 diabetes need to eat a healthy diet that contains the right balance of foods.

If your doctor or diabetes nurse finds that this alone is not enough to keep your blood sugar levels normal, you may also need to take further medication.

There are several kinds of tablets for people with Type 2 diabetes. Some help your pancreas to produce more insulin. Others help your body to make better use of the insulin that your pancreas does produce. Another type of tablet slows down the speed at which the body absorbs glucose from the intestine.

Your doctor will decide which kinds of tablet are going to work best for you and may prescribe more than one kind.

You may also be offered a newer therapy, which is given by injection (GLP-1 agonist). This is different to insulin, but will help the body deal more effectively with sugar and may help with weight loss

Your doctor or diabetes nurse will tell you all about the different kinds of medication, when to take them, and whether you need to monitor your blood or urine glucose levels.

For more information on type 2 diabetes medication go to:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Medication
  • Reducing the risk of serious health problems

    People with diabetes have a higher chance of developing certain serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, circulation problems, nerve damage, and damage to the kidneys and eyes.

    The risk is particularly high for people with diabetes who are also very overweight, who smoke or who are not physically active.

    You will greatly reduce your risk of developing any of these complications by controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and by eating healthily and doing regular physical activity.

    Regular medical check-ups

    In the last 10 to 20 years, the care for people with diabetes has improved dramatically.

    One of the most important developments has been improved methods of screening which will help your doctor to pick up any health problems at an early stage so they can be treated more successfully.

    This is why having regular medical check-ups, at least annually, is so important.

    Help yourself to stay fit and healthy

    If you have diabetes, you will have to make some changes to your way of life.

    However, by sticking to your treatment, monitoring your condition and following a generally healthy lifestyle, you should be able to continue your normal, day-to-day life and take part in the activities you have always enjoyed.

    Healthy eating

    You may need to change your eating habits.

    This leaflet on healthy eating contains lots of useful information. Healthy Eating and your Diabetes


    If you smoke - quit now.

    Smoking is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes as it greatly increases the chance of developing a serious health problem. If you smoke, it is very important that you quit now.

    Physical activity

    It is a good idea to take up some form of regular physical activity, such as walking, swimming, dancing or cycling. Consult your doctor or diabetes nurse before taking up any regular exercise, particularly if you are overweight.

    Following your treatment plan

    It is very important that you follow the treatment that your doctor or diabetes nurse has advised. You will feel much better if you keep your blood sugar levels as near normal as possible. Blood sugar levels are measured in millimols per litre of blood. This is shortened to mmol/l. You should aim for a level of 4 - 7 mmol/l before meals, rising to no higher than 10 mmol/l two hours after meals. Your doctor or diabetes nurse will advise you on what is best for you. They can also advise you on the many gadgets available that can help you to monitor your blood sugar levels.

    For more information on type 1 diabetes check the what is diabetes page.
    For more information on insulin check the medication with insulin page.
    For more information on blood glucose monitoring and meds kit check the meds and kit page.

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