How is diabetes treated?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that is typically treated through ongoing administration of insulin.

26 January 2016

Treatment and dosage will vary according to the type of diabetes, as well as your own health profile. The aim of diabetes treatment is to minimise any elevation of blood sugar (known as hyperglycaemia) without causing abnormally low blood sugar levels (known as hypoglycaemia).

In all diabetics, diet needs to form part of your treatment plan, as it is an important aspect of controlling your blood sugar levels. According to Diabetes South Africa, there are three factors to consider when it comes to a diabetes-friendly diet, namely:

  1. The timing of meals: Eating soon after waking in the morning and then spacing your meals between two and four hours apart will help to ensure you manage your blood sugar levels more effectively.
  2. The amount you consume at each meal: Dieticians advise eating smaller meals more often in order to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  3. The type of food: It is crucial to incorporate foods that offer slow-release of energy to stabilise blood sugar levels, like fibre-rich foods.

Type 1 treatment

Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin therapy involving injecting the hormone insulin on a daily basis to help the conversion of glucose into energy. Regular exercise and a balanced diet are also important factors in keeping healthy. Insulin is injected intramuscularly or subcutaneously.

In order to administer the right dosage of insulin, type 1 diabetics must monitor their blood sugar levels regularly. There are two methods of doing this:

  1. A simple finger-prick blood test that indicates the level of glucose present in the blood stream, followed by self-administering an insulin injection.
  2. The second method involves having an insulin pump (known as continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion therapy) that is permanently fitted to the body, usually via a small needle that is inserted into the fatty tissue around the midriff, which connects the device to your blood stream. This automatically monitors blood glucose levels and injects continuous small doses of insulin (known as basal insulin), while also being on hand for the user to inject larger doses of insulin (known as bolus insulin) at meal times.

Sometimes type 1 diabetics have to contend with their blood glucose levels dropping dangerously low resulting in insulin shock. Here treatment will include eating fast-acting carbohydrates such as a small chocolate or sugary drink, followed by a more sustaining food such as a sandwich, to bring blood glucose levels back up to normal.

Type 2 treatment

As type 2 is related to lifestyle, it is treated with a strict diabetes-friendly diet as well as exercise, which both help to ensure a more stable blood glucose level.The aim of treatment is to reduce the high levels of glucose found in the blood stream.This means that it’s important to avoid foods high in simple carbohydrates such as white bread that would raise your blood sugar levelstoo quickly, while focusing on eating foods high in fibre and rich in micronutrients such as vitamin C and E, magnesium and zinc, which according to a study conducted in 2004, greatly improves the “good” cholesterol, HDL-C.

Type 2 is a progressive condition, however, and over time you may need more help in the form of an insulin pill (still in experimental stage) in order to manage your blood glucose levels.

For more info and assistance

Read More: Diabetes Super Section