Health Information
Health and Wellness

Diabetes Self Management
Diabetes Self Management
Health Education Department,
Multicare Associates of the Twin Cities

In 1921, two Canadian researchers, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, discovered insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is essential to life. When insulin is lacking, and not working properly, a person develops diabetes. Before the discovery of insulin, people with diabetes rarely survived more than a year after their diagnosis. The discovery of insulin resulted in long-term survival for people with diabetes. Unfortunately, the discovery of insulin did not protect people with diabetes from long-term complications. The long-term complications of diabetes are blindness, heart disease and stroke, kidney failure, impotence, and loss of circulation to the feet and legs that could result in an amputation.

For many years, doctors were not sure whether anything could be done to prevent the complications of diabetes. In 1993, a historic study called the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) reported that patients who kept their blood sugars close to normal had a lower incidence of complications than those who had higher blood sugars. New guidelines were established by diabetic specialists to help patients with diabetes keep their diabetes under better control. If you have diabetes, you should be aware of these new guidelines, and should discuss them with your doctor or diabetes educator. Doctors and diabetic educators know that in order for patients to keep their diabetes under excellent control, they need information and motivation. No one can do more to control diabetes than the person who has it!

These are the guidelines for diabetes control that will help you achieve the control that is recommended by the DCCT:
  • Test your blood sugar levels at home, often several times a day. Write the results in a log book, and review them with your doctor. In order to test at home, you should have a blood glucose meter which your diabetes educator can teach you how t o use. People with diabetes should have readings that are close to normal, usually between 70 and 140. (In Minnesota, state law requires that insurers who pay for prescription items must also pay for diabetes testing supplies.)
  • Have your doctor check a long-term blood sugar test, at least twice a year. If you take insulin, it should be tested at least four times a year. This long-term test is called a glycosylated hemoglobin. This test measures how well controlled your blood sugar has been over the last three months, and should be no more than one percentage point over normal.
  • Learn as much as you can about how your diet and exercise affect your blood sugar. Your doctor should be able to recommend a Certified Diabetes Educator and a Registered Dietitian to help you.
  • Have an annual eye examination. If diabetic retinopathy is found at an early stage, it can often be treated successfully.
  • Learn how to take care of your feet, and report any problems to your doctor immediately.
  • Besides having your blood sugar checked, see your doctor regularly for an assessment of your cholesterol, blood pressure, and urine protein.
If you have diabetes, it is tempting to hope that you will be one of the people who will not have complications. However, once you lose your vision or have kidney failure, the damage cannot be undone. Prevention is essential! You are the most important person on your diabetes care team. Take the initiative and ask your doctor for the best managment of your diabetes that is available today.

For more articles on Health and Wellness, go to the main article index page.