OUTREACH & ENGAGEMENT COMMITTEE
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month (NDAM). Please take some time to check out our T1D topics. We encourage you to share this information on your social media to help educate and raise awareness about Type 1 Diabetes.
BLOOD SUGAR MANAGEMENT IS KEY
The body uses sugar (glucose) as fuel to power its cells. The amount of sugars in the blood depend on what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it. If cells aren't able to properly absorb and use the sugar you eat, too much sugar accumulates in your blood, which can cause damage to nerves, blood vessels, and some of your major organs. Prolonged high blood sugar levels can lead to serious health complications.
Normal blood-sugar readings typically fall between 4.0 and 6.0 mmol/L. For people with Type 1 Diabetes, the normal is between 5.0 and 7.0 mmol/L. A blood test called a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) measures the average blood sugar levels over the previous three months. A normal A1c reading is below 5.7% for people without diabetes and around 6.5% for people with Type 1 Diabetes. Click HERE to read more about A1c.
It's super important to keep your blood sugars in good standing. Management of blood sugars is key to preventing future complications and maintaining good health. Symptoms and consequences of high blood sugar include:
Being thirsty all the time and having to go to the bathroom more often. Your body will naturally try to get rid of excess sugar through urine. Because you pee more often, you become, which makes you really thirsty.
You feel tired all the time. Your body is expelling extra sugar that it can't access through urine, which also means it's expelling energy your body needs to feel alert. You're also losing sleep because you keep having to wake to go to the bathroom during the night. Also, when your body isn't able to access the sugars in your blood, your cells are being starved of its fuel, so you have very little energy to function.
Elevated sugar levels in your blood make it thicker and then your heart has to work harder to pump it through your body to deliver necessary nutrients. The thick consistency can often cause damage when trying to pass through tiny, delicate blood vessels in the eyes, ears, nerves, and kidneys.
Your eyes are very delicate and can suffer damage from prolonged high blood sugars. In the short-term, a cloudy fluid build up can temporarily blur vision until sugars are back in check. Over a longer stretch, the back of the eye that is light-sensitive, called the retina, is full of small blood vessels that are easily damaged by thickened blood.The centre of the eye that's responsible for your vision, called the macula, can swell up and cause vision loss. There is a chance of abnormal vessel growth, as well, that get in the way of both central and peripheral vision.
A feeling of numbness in your fingers and toes is related to high blood sugars. Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the ends of the longest nerve fibers in the body first making the feet, legs, arms, and hands first to feel the effects. In addition to numbness, you may feel tingling or pricklies or even sharp pain. Controlling your blood sugars is key to preventing permanent damage.
Because Type 1 Diabetes affects blood circulation, having high blood sugar levels can cause a loss of sensitivity in your feet and extend healing time. High blood sugars feed wounds so even a small issue like an ingrown toenail or blister can become a bigger problem due to infection setting in. Diabetes is the leading cause of major limb amputations, but can be prevented if you have your feet checked regularly and work with your health care team to manage your BGs.
Having a lot of sugar in your blood can also affect your sex drive. Damage to the nerves and blood vessels can negatively affect your ability and experience. Men can experience dysfunction due to blood vessel damage and women often experience dryness or reduced sensation.
Digestion can be hindered by high blood sugars. Damage to the nerves involved in the process of digestion from high blood sugars can also lead to constipation or diarrhea. In severe cases, high blood sugars can lead to gastroparesis, which prevents the free flow of food through the intestine, causing nausea, vomiting, bloating and pain. If your body can't process your food and properly absorb the nutrients it provides, your blood sugars are affected in a vicious cycle.
Your kidneys help your body filter our waste. They have a bunch of the tiny blood vessels that get damaged from thickened blood. If blood sugars are high for long periods of time, these organs have to work overtime to clear the excess sugar which causes scarring and leads to eventual organ failure. You can preserve your kidney function and prevent dialysis or transplantation by keeping blood sugars controlled.
People with Type 1 Diabetes are at a higher risk of stroke and heart attack because of the extra strain. Good blood sugar management can reduce the risks, considerably. The same blood vessel damage that can cause heart attacks, kidney, and eye problems, can also affect your brain. High blood sugar levels can lead to impaired thinking and trouble with memory.
Your teeth could be at risk. High blood sugars can cause bleeding and pain in your gums that make it hard to eat. Without regular exercise from chewing, bone and tissue that help hold your teeth in place can start to erode. High blood sugar can also make your mouth dry and cause chapped lips. A fungal infection called thrush that presents in sore white or red patches on your gums, tongue, cheeks or roof or your mouth, is also common to people with uncontrolled blood sugars.
UTIs (urinary tract infections) tend to be more common in people with Type 1 Diabetes because of the nerve damage done by thickened blood. The nerves that control bladder function and sphincter muscles can't function properly, causing difficulties holding your pee, when necessary and when emptying your bladder.
Uncontrolled blood sugar can also show up in your skin. Thanks to the fluid lost, your skin can become dry, cracked and itchy. To maintain that youthful glow, be sure to monitor and manage your blood sugars.
When prolonged high blood sugar levels prevent your cells from getting the glucose they need for energy, your body will start burning fat for energy, instead. This process produces harmful chemicals called ketones that build up in the blood and make it more acidic. High levels of ketones can poison the body and land you in the hospital with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). You can detect ketones with an at-home urine test using a test strip, or with a ketone blood glucose meter. While DKA cases aren't usually fatal, this condition is regarded as the leading cause of death in children and adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes. Most of the time, it's because of a misdiagnosis and families are unaware their child has Type 1, so it's crucial to share this information and help raise awareness.
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Past NDAM postings:
T1D Stickers and Accessories | Driving with T1D | Pump Lingo | Dawn Phenomenon | Blood Sugar Management Get Diabetes Right | Foot Care | Sleep: the lost frontier | Glycemic Index | Medication Management