Diabetes

November — Diabetes awareness month

Mthandazo Ndlovu

THE month of November is recognised as the diabetes awareness month and also here in our nation we have organisations that are proactive in this awareness and educate people on the subject of diabetes and its causes.
Diabetes, also referred to as diabetes mellitus, is a condition in which the body is unable to properly regulate blood sugar levels. There are two forms known as type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes, which is also called juvenile or insulin dependent diabetes, develops due to the loss of cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin.

Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form, develops as a result of the body’s inability to properly use insulin.

The inappropriate response is referred to as insulin resistance.

Initially the pancreas begins to produce extra insulin in order to counteract the body’s resistance, but eventually the pancreas cannot produce the amount of insulin that is needed to maintain normal blood sugar level.

Although the mechanisms are different, both of these types of diabetes prevent sugar that is in the form of glucose from entering the body’s cells and if the condition is not properly treated, blood sugar levels become dangerously high, a condition known as hyperglycemia

Individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes have to be especially careful when consuming alcohol.

Typically, women who have diabetes are advised to consume only one drink a day and only two drinks are advised for men with diabetes.

Drinking alcohol also hinders the liver from releasing stored glucose; this can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels.

It takes about two hours for the liver to break down the alcohol that is contained in one drink.

The energy spent in doing so would otherwise be utilised for a healthy release of stored glucose.

All told, alcohol slows down the body’s reaction time, disrupts the liver’s ability to release glucose, and may cause individuals with type 1 or 2 diabetes to slowly develop hypoglycemia.

However, if a person with diabetes already has hypertension, nerve damage, or eye problems, the consumption of alcohol is usually not recommended at all.

This is because drinks such as wine and beer contain carbohydrates that can be broken down into glucose (sugar) and consuming more than the recommended amount of alcohol may cause blood sugar levels to rapidly increase.

These types of health problems worsen dramatically in individuals with diabetes who not only drink, but abuse alcohol.

Furthermore, the symptoms of hypoglycemia and alcohol intoxication are quite similar sometimes.

Failure to discern a hypoglycemic episode from acute intoxication can easily result with the person with diabetes not receiving the proper care.

To be continued

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