Diagnosed With Diabetes - What Does It Mean?

Updated on April 13, 2017
SherrieWeynand profile image

Ms. Weynand is a freelance writer covering a wide variety of topics, with a focus on politics and social issues. She has type 2 diabetes.

Doctor with tablet.
Doctor with tablet. | Source

Diagnosis Day

You find yourself sitting in the doctor's office exam room. There is nothing wrong; after all, it is only your annual checkup. As you wait patiently for the doctor to come in to discuss your lab results, you idly pass time by staring around the room. If you are like me, you would rather be anywhere other than this place, except for the DMV—but that's an entire article of its own.

After what feels like an eternity, there is a slight tap on the door and she (or he), walks in and sits on the rolling stool inevitably placed right next to the sink. They type a few keystrokes on the computer, quickly scan the screen, and clear their throat. This innocuous checkup now feels more like bad news brewing.

"Ms. Weynand, scanning through your labs I found a couple things we need to address."

She paused and I felt my heart stop. You know, the feeling you get when the roller coaster reaches the crest of that long, slow climb, then drops down at insane speeds? Yeah, that's where I found myself.

Then she began again. "Your blood glucose levels are elevated, and it shows your hemoglobin A1C at just over 9. You have type 2 diabetes."

Her mouth was still moving but I could not hear a word she said. My hearing failed me. It sounded like I was in a vacuum. That tunnel effect that hits you right before you pass out washed over me. There had to be a mistake. I wasn't obese! I mean, losing twenty pounds would not hurt, but I was far from obese. My diet wasn't horrible. Nothing made sense. All I could do before I broke down in tears, was ask, "I have what?"

Reality Begins to Set In

When you are diagnosed with diabetes, you are forced to digest the fact you will face a much higher chance of other issues. Some of those being heart disease and stroke, along with others which we will discuss in a minute.

Why are diabetics at higher risk for developing these serious or even deadly illnesses? A diabetic's body does not use insulin like a non-diabetic. Glucose (another term for sugar) should be shifted into cells to use as energy, but in a diabetic it builds in the blood, causing damage the longer it is left uncontrolled. Your diagnosis is an important first step to regaining control over your blood sugar.

There are a few steps we can take after a diagnosis that can help us avoid the complications due to diabetes.

Healthier lifestyle choices improve control over your diabetes.
Healthier lifestyle choices improve control over your diabetes.

First Steps

  • Confirm your diagnosis. This might not be something you think about immediately, but you should. Lab facilities are not infallible. Mistakes, unfortunately, can and do happen. Perhaps you forgot and ate or drank something before your lab work. A second test a few days apart to confirm is a good idea.
  • Start on medication. Doctors use different medications depending on your specific needs. Metformin is a popular first choice medication used in treating type 2 diabetes. Side effects of Metformin are minimal and rare, it helps bring glucose levels down to a healthy range. However, your doctor will help you make an informed choice. Being proactive in your health care is imperative.
  • Find a meal plan that works for you. Changing your diet to lower carbs and fats can help in the journey to lowering and maintaining your blood sugar levels. Carbs can cause your blood sugar to raise in a sudden spike. You do not have to give up everything you love to eat. Portion control does make a difference. Healthier choices and becoming an avid label reader will both have a positive impact on your readings.
  • Exercise. There is not enough that can be said about the value of physical activity. Not only can it help in the battle against unwanted pounds, it can also help lower blood sugar levels. A diabetic should participate in moderate exercise for 30 minutes per day, five times per week. Your heart will thank you too. Please remember to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise regime.
  • Schedule regular appointments. Yearly eye exams will help catch possible problems leading to blindness, while foot exams can help prevent issues requiring amputation.

Yes, receiving a diabetes diagnosis is frightening and overwhelming, but remaining positive will go a long way.

Diabetes word collage.
Diabetes word collage. | Source

Diabetes Mellitus

There are a group of diseases which fall under the class diabetes mellitus.

  • Type 1
  • Type 2
  • Prediabetes
  • Gestational

These are the four most common types. In this article we will focus on type 2.

Do you live with type 2 diabetes?

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Overview of the most significant possible symptoms of diabetes
Overview of the most significant possible symptoms of diabetes | Source

Symptoms

Type 2 symptoms generally develop over time. It is common for people to have it many years without knowing. Watch for:1

  • Increased thirst/frequent urination. Excess sugar builds in the blood causing fluid to be extracted from the tissues. Such as in dehydration, you might find yourself excessively thirsty. This can cause you to drink more, thus you urinate more often. Input/output.
  • Increased hunger. Your body needs ample insulin to move sugars to cells. Without the insulin, your muscles and organs have insufficient energy to perform their task. Intense hunger is a result.
  • Weight loss. Even eating more than you normally would, to combat the increased hunger, you could still lose weight. Since your body is unable to process glucose, it uses fuels which are stored for your body's emergency use, energy is found in muscle and fat. Calories are lost or burned when extra glucose is eliminated in urine.
  • Fatigue. When cells lack sugar it can cause tiredness and irritability. Think of the term, "hangry." That might be the reason behind it.
  • Blurred vision. When blood sugar is in an elevated state, your ability to focus clearly can be difficult. Fluids get pulled from the lenses of your eyes, causing the difficulty.
  • Difficulty healing sores or infections. Your body does not resist infections and even small wounds can take a long time to heal.
  • Areas of darkened skin. A skin condition, acanthosis nigricans, which leaves patches of darkened skin in folds or crevices, may show signs that you are insulin resistant.

It is important to contact your physician if you exhibit any of these symptoms. The earlier diabetes is treated, the easier it is to control. Your risk of other serious complications lessen as well.

Causes

When our bodies grow resistant to insulin or the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin, type 2 diabetes develops. There is no definitive reason this occurs, but genetics, along with environmental factors - excess weight and not enough physical exercise appear to play at least a role.

What is the Pancreas?

The pancreas is a gland which controls blood sugar levels by releasing insulin into the bloodstream, as well as performs other tasks as part of your digestive system. The pancreas is located in the abdomen, between your stomach and your spine.

The pancreas sits behind the stomach. The duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) loops around the head of the pancreas.
The pancreas sits behind the stomach. The duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) loops around the head of the pancreas. | Source

Insulin and its Role

Insulin regulates the usage and storage of glucose, and fat as well. Cells require insulin to remove glucose to use for energy.

When your body has adequate energy, insulin triggers the liver to store glucose as glycogen. (Glycogen is a polysaccharide which acts as a storage unit for glucose in your body.) At any point in time, the liver will hold up to 5 percent of its mass as glycogen.

In type 2 diabetes, insulin does not respond within the body. With this insulin resistance, the body is unable to remove glucose from the bloodstream efficiently.

Chemical makeup of insulin. Carbon - Red, Oxygen - Green, Nitrogen - Blue, Sulfur - Pink
Chemical makeup of insulin. Carbon - Red, Oxygen - Green, Nitrogen - Blue, Sulfur - Pink

Diabetics by State - Top 5 (2014)

State
Diagnosed Diabetic
California
3,035,373
Texas
2,178,723
Florida
1,771,321
New York
1,554,909
Pennsylvania
1,130,813
2014 CDC Reports Five States With Highest Population of Adults With Diabetes

Myths and Facts

Myth: Diabetes is not that serious of a disease.

Fact: There are more deaths attributed to diabetes per year than there are from both breast cancer and AIDS.

Myth: If you are overweight or obese, you will become type 2 diabetic.

Fact: While excess weight is a risk factor, there are other things like family history, your ethnicity, and age, which all play roles in developing type 2 diabetes. Most people who are overweight will never be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. On the same hand, a lot of people who are at a normal weight are type 2 diabetic.

Myth: Eating sugar will cause diabetes.

Fact: Type 2 diabetes is linked to both genetics and lifestyle factors. A Harvard study does show a correlation between sugary drinks and type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association suggest people avoid sugary beverages to help prevent diabetes.2

  • Soda
  • Fruit punch
  • Fruit drinks
  • Energy drinks
  • Sports drinks
  • Sweet tea

These will all cause spikes in blood glucose levels.

Myth: You can catch diabetes from someone else.

Fact: Diabetes is not contagious.

FDA warns of health care scams and fraud.
FDA warns of health care scams and fraud. | Source

Super Foods and Other Nonsense

We live in a world where the next big cure is only one super food away. While I agree that sometimes, medications are prescribed too quickly and too often, with something as serious as diabetes, there's no room to play around with your health.

The web pages are endless and seem to be growing by the day. My thoughts are this - if there were any one fruit, nut, spice, berry, or magic pill that would cure diabetes - the world would be diabetic free.

Are there foods you can eat that will help in the control of your blood sugar and its wonky spike? Of course, there are. Is it possible to reverse your diagnosis and be medication free? Yes, it's happened with proper control, diet, and exercise. It's a complete lifestyle shift but it's not impossible to accomplish. You will not find a miracle cure for only 3 payments of $39.99. It will take a bit of hard work to start with, but you'll get it, and when you do, you're well on your way.

Be your own advocate, be proactive, educate yourself, and take a stand, tell diabetes it can go f...(fly a kite.) If I can do this, anyone can. I have the willpower of a gnat. One last plus since my diagnosis, that 20 pounds from the beginning of the article? Yeah, I lost them.

References and Citations

  1. Mayo Clinic Staff. "Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms and Causes." January 13, 2016. MayoClinic. Accessed April 7, 2017.

  2. "Diabetes Myths." Reviewed August 17, 2015. American Diabetes Association. Accessed April 7, 2017.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Sherrie Weynand

    Comments

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      • SherrieWeynand profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherrie Weynand 

        16 months ago from San Francisco, CA

        Yes, and without routine bloodwork it can go unknown for many years. Thanks for reading, Debangee.

      • Debangee Mandal profile image

        DEBANGEE MANDAL 

        16 months ago from India

        Yes diabetes is becoming an increasing risk..it is deteriorates your entire system. Almost a silent killer . Very resourceful hub. I truly appreciate it.

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