Recently you have been extremely tired even though you’ve been getting more than enough sleep. Your vision has been blurry, which has you concerned, and you’re planning to go to the eye doctor to get your vision checked soon. You’re always hungry even though you’ve been eating much more than normal, and you can’t seem to gain weight.
You’ve noticed some numbness in your feet over the past month or so, and a couple of weeks ago you even stepped on a piece of glass and didn’t realize it until you noticed your foot was bleeding. Even more concerning, the cut from the glass doesn’t seem to be healing at all and looks like is starting to get infected.
You’ve heard of diabetes before, and have a couple of family members that were diagnosed with it. It seems like a pretty big deal, and you know you’ll likely need to make some adjustments to your lifestyle but don’t know what to do next.
Diabetes is best defined as a disease in which our bodies do not properly process food, leading to imbalances in blood sugars that can cause severe health problems such as organ failure, blindness, severe infections, and in extreme cases limb amputations.
Even when the disease is not severe, it can lead to health problems such as peripheral neuropathy, non-healing wounds, heart disease, and problems with mobility and falls. Put simply, we have an internal organ called the pancreas that produces enzymes to help us digest our food. The pancreas also produces a hormone called insulin that helps various tissues throughout our body transport and use glucose, a type of sugar, as fuel; insulin also helps Our bodies to store glycogen, a form of glucose, in the liver for future use.
If the pancreas does not make enough insulin, or if for some reason our body does not use insulin efficiently, blood sugar levels increase and ultimately lead to diabetes. Doctors often diagnose diabetes with a series of lab tests that look specifically at your blood sugars. There are many different versions of blood sugar testing, including an A1C test, random blood sugar test, fasting blood sugar test, or an oral glucose tolerance test. While each test is slightly different, each is used for a similar purpose- to see if your blood sugars are over a certain threshold.
For example, if your doctor performs a fasting blood sugar test, your blood sugar should be under 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL); if your blood sugar is100-125 mg/dL you would be considered to be pre-diabetic, and having blood sugar levels at 126 mg/dL or higher is an indicator of being diabetic.
Medical management of diabetes usually includes dietary management and coaching, physical activity, careful blood sugar monitoring, and the use of insulin and other appropriate medications. It is important to have good compliance with your insulin dosage and timing, otherwise your blood sugars may increase into an unhealthy and dangerous range.
It might not seem like a big deal if your blood sugars are higher than they should be- but keep in mind, your blood sugar levels, and diabetes, have an effect on almost every part of the body. If your blood sugar levels are out of control, you are at a much higher risk of experiencing conditions such as stroke, heart disease and heart attack, high blood pressure, neuropathy, glaucoma, cataracts, retinopathy, kidney disease, depression, non-healing Wounds and skin infections, poor circulation, and increased risk of amputation of limbs due to infection and non-healing Wounds.
Diabetes can be a big deal, but not if you work hard to manage the disease, and physical therapy can play an important role in this process. There are many ways that physical therapy can help people who have been diagnosed with diabetes.
As previously mentioned, physical activity is one of the best ways to help manage diabetes and control blood sugar levels but many people need help getting started. Physical therapists are specially trained to evaluate and assess many aspects of physical illness, including built not limited to strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance, and can help to design a program tailored to your specific weaknesses and interests.
Moreover, in a systemic disease such as diabetes, it is important to carefully monitor vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturations, and blood sugar levels to ensure proper tolerance of the exercise program. As medical professionals, physical therapists can help to closely monitor these vital signs and use them to progress your exercise regimen or to notify