What is diabetes mellitus?
Our body transforms the food that we eat into a simple sugar known as glucose. The cells of our body take up the glucose and a hormone called insulin aids this. The body cells then utilize the glucose for energy. The pancreas produces insulin. Diabetes results when there is less or no insulin produced (type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes) or when the body is resistant to the effects of insulin (type 2 or non insulin dependent diabetes). In diabetes the blood sugars thus remain abnormally high. Type 2 Diabetes is much more common than type 1.

How is diabetes diagnosed?
Elevated fasting or random plasma blood glucose levels, usually confirmed on 2 occasions, diagnose diabetes.

How can I enjoy optimal health despite having diabetes?
Although diabetes cannot be cured, it can certainly be controlled such that one can lead a normal life. The key is blood glucose control achieved by eating a healthy diet low in refined carbohydrates, regular exercise aimed at maintaining close to ideal body weight and taking your medications prescribed by your doctor.

What are the long-term effects of poorly controlled diabetes?
Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage eyes, nerves and kidneys. Since blood vessels both small and big are affected other problems like heart disease, stroke, foot ulcers, and frequent infections are also more common. All these are preventable if blood glucose is controlled and other medical problems such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol are identified and treated.

What are the treatment options in diabetes?
Diabetes is commonly treated either by tablets which help the body release more insulin (e.g. sulphonylurea medications such as glypizide, glyburide etc) or those which make the body more sensitive to the effects of insulin such as metformin, or by insulin injections. Insulin is a must is type 1 diabetes and may become necessary in late stages of type 2 diabetes.

Should I check my blood sugar level at home if I have diabetes?
You should check your blood sugar level at home if you take insulin injections. You may have to check them also if your blood sugars drop low often. You should check your blood sugar level as often as your doctor suggests.

What should I do if my blood sugar gets too low?
People with diabetes are at risk of low blood sugars when they skip meals. The signs of low blood sugar may include having a headache, sweating, and feeling anxious, weak, dizzy or passing out. Usually, quickly eating some hard sugar candy or drinking fruit juice can relieve this. It may be a good idea to carry some sugar or candy with you always if you have diabetes.