Insulin therapy requires close monitoring and a great deal of patient education, as improper administration is quite dangerous. For example, when food intake is reduced, less insulin is required. A previously satisfactory dosing may be too much if less food is consumed causing a hypoglycemic reaction if not intelligently adjusted. Exercise decreases insulin requirements as exercise increases glucose uptake by body cells whose glucose uptake is controlled by insulin, and vice versa. In addition, there are several types of insulin with varying times of onset and duration of action.
Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by elevated blood glucose levels due to defects in insulin secretion, insulin action, or both. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance. For those people whose bodies resist insulin, the pancreas secretes extra insulin to maintain normal glucose levels. As the condition progresses, insulin production gradually decreases and eventually reaches a level of deficiency that can no longer maintain blood glucose in the normal range. But how type 2 diabetes presents and progresses can vary considerably, as noted by the ADA, and methods of treatment can vary from patient to patient.
Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS). Signs and symptoms of this life-threatening condition include a blood sugar reading higher than 600 mg/dL (33.3 mmol/L), dry mouth, extreme thirst, fever greater than 101 F (38 C), drowsiness, confusion, vision loss, hallucinations and dark urine. Your blood sugar monitor may not be able to give you an exact reading at such high levels and may instead just read "high."
On a personal note, I always encourage full disclosure of a history of diabetes, even if currently diet controlled. Although a glucose level may now be within normal range, certain medical treatments/medications/illnesses may trigger a hyperglycemic (high blood glucose) level. The fully informed medical provider will closely monitor these patients and prevent uncontrolled glucose spikes from occurring.
The physician can also make referrals to a wide variety of professionals for additional health care support. In the UK a patient training course is available for newly diagnosed diabetics (see DESMOND). In big cities, there may be diabetes centers where several specialists, such as diabetes educators and dietitians, work together as a team. In smaller towns, the health care team may come together a little differently depending on the types of practitioners in the area. By working together, doctors and patients can optimize the healthcare team to successfully manage diabetes over the long term.
Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.