Diabetes is a chronic disease listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the 10 deadliest diseases in the world. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that they have diabetes until symptoms or even signs of complications appear. People with diabetes usually have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels). It is therefore important for people to pay attention to their daily sugar intake from foods or drinks.
What Is Glucose Intolerance?
Glucose intolerance is a condition in which insulin cannot control the glucose in the body effectively, resulting in higher-than-normal blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone that absorbs glucose into the body to keep blood sugar levels balanced. If a person has impaired glucose tolerance, there is a high risk that the disease could develop into diabetes.
Impaired glucose tolerance is also known as prediabetes or the stage leading up to diabetes. Impaired glucose tolerance can be detected through a HbA1c blood test or glucose tolerance test in a hospital or clinic by trained medical personnel. For a glucose tolerance test, you have to drink 75 grams of liquid glucose 2 hours before the test. After that, the test can be performed by taking a blood sample from your arm for laboratory analysis. The results of fasting blood sugar and blood sugar after the test will give an idea of whether there is a sugar metabolism disorder.
Normal HbA1c levels are less than 5.7%. You have impaired glucose tolerance if your HbA1c test result is 5.7-6.4%. Meanwhile, if the result is 6.5% or more, it means you have diabetes.
What Is the Difference between Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia?
People with impaired glucose tolerance should immediately change their lifestyle to be healthier to control their blood sugar and to avoid diabetes. When suffering from diabetes, blood sugar levels will be more difficult to control. Patients with diabetes mellitus may experience hyperglycemia, hypoglycaemia, or both, as blood sugar levels fluctuate.
Hyperglycemia is a condition in which the blood sugar level is very high (above 200 mg/dl). Hyperglycemia may lead to loss of consciousness, recurrent infections, and weight loss. Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:
- Dry skin and mouth
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Bad breath
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
Hypoglycaemia is a condition in which the blood sugar level is very low (less than 60 mg/dl). Hypoglycaemia may cause the patient to have incoherent speech, convulsions, and loss of consciousness. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Heart palpitation
- Pale skin
- Blurred vision
- Excessive cold sweat
- Shaking hands
Various Medicines that Affect Blood Sugar Levels
Some medicines used to treat certain illnesses or diseases, such as high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and depression, can affect your blood sugar levels. They include over-the-counter medicines from pharmacies, drugstores, or kiosks.
Examples of medicines that can cause blood sugar levels to be higher than normal:
- Antidepressants (medicines for depression)
- Corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory medicines)
- Dilantin (to treat epilepsy)
- Medicines for heart and blood pressure (amiodarone, calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, diuretics)
- Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
- Niacin (to lower bad cholesterol levels)
- Protease inhibitors (ritonavir, anti-AIDS medicine)
Examples of medicines that can lower blood sugar levels are:
- Alcohol (acute and excessive consumption)
- Aspirin and other salicylates at higher doses
- Medicines for heart and blood pressure (ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers)
- Acetaminophen to reduce fever, especially at higher doses
The Role of Caregivers and Health Professionals in Helping the Elderly with Unstable Blood Sugar
In people with diabetes, uncontrolled blood sugar can cause ketoacidosis, a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when the blood becomes acidic because the body cannot make enough insulin. This complication is more common in people with type 1 diabetes, but this doesn’t mean that this complication will not develop in people with type 2 diabetes.
Ketoacidosis requires medical treatment because it can lead to more serious complications and even death. Complications that can occur include fluid retention in the brain, cardiac arrest (heart stops beating), and kidney failure.
In addition to ketoacidosis, complications of diabetes include:
- Eye disease (including blindness) due to fluid levels changes, edema, and vascular damage
- Foot problems due to nerve damage and decreased blood flow to the feet
- Tooth and gum disease caused by bacterial growth due to high amounts of blood sugar in the saliva.
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke
- Kidney disease
- Damage to nerves and small blood vessels
- Sexual dysfunction
- Skin infections
Caregivers and other medical personnels can help overcome the risks of diabetes complications without the need of hospitalization. Trained and professional caregivers play an important role in monitoring blood sugar levels to help control diabetes through a healthy lifestyle and appropriate medications. Keeping blood sugar levels controlled is the key to prevent diabetes complications.
How to Prevent Diabetes Complications
To prevent diabetes complications, it is important for the patients to have strong determination. With this determination, the next step will be easier. Patients can take the following actions to avoid diabetes complications:
- Implement a balanced nutritional diet by increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables and reducing salty, sweet, and fatty foods
- Follow an active lifestyle, including regular exercise
- Check your eyes regularly for signs of vision problems
- Check your blood sugar levels regularly at a clinic or hospital
- Take anti-diabetic medicines according to the doctor’s prescription
- Watch for symptoms of foot complications such as tingling, ulcers, and loss of sensation
- If you have skin problems, consult a dermatologist
- Thoroughly brush your teeth at least twice a day
Diabetes is a serious disease that can be prevented and controlled. If someone in your family has diabetes, your risk of getting the same disease is higher. Therefore, prevention and control measures need to be started as early as possible so that quality of life is not compromised due to diabetes and its complications.