Managing Diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes means having too much sugar in the blood. The food we eat is broken down into glucose. In a normal person, insulin (manufactured by an organ called the pancreas) acts on cells throughout the body to stimulate uptake, utilization and storage of glucose. People who are diabetic do not produce enough insulin (Type 1 Diabetes) or the insulin produced does not work well (Type 2 Diabetes). As a result, sugar builds up in the blood causing diabetes.

In Singapore, statistics show that about 1 in every 10 Singaporeans has diabetes and has almost doubled among those 50 years and above. It is a serious chronic medical condition and is a growing concern in Singapore.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious complications like kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, blindness, nerve damage, foot ulcers and amputations. Diabetes is  also the most common cause of chronic kidney failure in Singapore, hence early detection and treatment is crucial.

Who are at risk?

These are some risk factors:

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight (BMI of 23 or higher)
  • Inactive or sedentary lifestyle
  • High blood pressure
  • Raised cholesterol levels
  • Above age 40
  • Past history of diabetes during pregnancy
  • Impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting blood glucose (pre-diabetes state)

How do I cope with diabetes?

Although there is presently no known cure for diabetes, it can be controlled and its complications can be prevented. We also know that the risk of developing diabetes can be reduced by leading an active and healthier lifestyle.

Treatment for diabetes includes diet modification, oral treatment and insulin injections.

Here are some steps you can take to manage your diabetes:

  • Have a well balanced diet as advised by your doctor or dietician
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
  • Take your diabetic medication as prescribed and monitor your blood sugar
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at desirable levels
  • Go for annual eye check up
  • Quit smoking as smoking increases the risk of heart disease, especially in a diabetic
  • Go for your regular follow up with your family doctor or specialist.

Hence if you have any of the risk factors or have symptoms of feeling thirsty or tired all the time or need to urinate a lot at night, I recommend a blood test to exclude diabetes as early detection and management of diabetes can prevent  complications.

Dr Lau's photo