How to cope with diabetes

The Mayo Parents Support Group was formed by parents of children with diabetes in 2008. The group holds regular meetings in the TF Royal Hotel, Castlebar for parents to meet and discuss all matters of diabetes.

What is diabetes?

There are two different types of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is more common and less serious than type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent diabetes ) is a lifelong condition caused by lack of insulin. Insulin is a hormone — a substance of vital importance that is made by your body. Without insulin your body can't make proper use of the food you eat. This causes your blood glucose, or blood sugar as people with diabetes often call it, to rise too high.

Urine forms in the kidneys when the blood is filtered. Without enough insulin, the amount of sugar in your bloodstream rises to very high levels. When that happens, some sugar spills through the kidneys into the urine. The sugar that spills into the urine carries a lot of water along with it. That makes you very thirsty. You drink a lot and urinate frequently.

Without enough insulin, your body can't use sugar, so it will try to burn fat for fuel. When your liver burns fat too quickly, it produces poisonous waste products called ketones. Ketones are dangerous because they make the blood acidic. When ketones reach your kidneys, some flow out in the urine together with sugar.

If not treated with insulin, you'll develop a serious condition called ketoacidosis. You'll feel sick and probably get stomach aches and vomit. Your cheeks will flush and you may lose consciousness. This could lead to diabetic coma. It requires immediate treatment with insulin and fluid.

To keep your blood sugar under control, now that you have diabetes, you have to do what your body once did automatically. The goal is to mimic the insulin pattern you had before you got diabetes and to keep the blood sugar level as near normal as possible.

You'll need insulin injections every day. Healthy eating is important. Make sure you eat three proper meals and three snacks a day if instructed. Don't forget to exercise regularly.

After years of living with diabetes, some people may develop certain characteristic problems with their eyes, kidneys, nerves and feet. Susceptibility to heart disease and high blood pressure is also increased. To help prevent these complications, it is important to keep your blood sugar as close as possible to the level of people without diabetes.

The Mayo Parents Support Group holds workshops and speaker evenings with medical professionals and also arranges family events. Further information is available from the secretary, Caroline Davy at 086 171 7230 or on the Facebook Mayo Parents Group.

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