Friday, November 20, 2009

Type 2 Diabetes and how to recognize its onset

Ronni Bennett of Time Goes said “Very few people actually know what it feels like to reach an advanced age, become old  or simply grow old. That’s not a verbatim quote, I’ve “tweaked it,” embellished it somewhat or put it in my own words but she was the one whom tried to express it as best she could.  Her comment was much better than anything I’ve come up with yet.

The moment I heard her say whatever it was she said exactly, a thought came to mind that I had used her words to my doctor at one time, immediately after he had diagnosed me with Type 2 Diabetes.  The doctor asked me “ Clarence…didn’t you feel just awful?”   I replied “Yes! But I thought it was just part of growing old.”

He couldn’t figure out where I had gotten that belief from and went to considerable lengths to assure me that such was not the case. 

Honestly…I wish I didn’t have that frame of mind then because who can say how much permanent damage I allowed the onset of diabetes to do to my body because I shrugged it all off as what one feels like when they get old.

I’m going to list the symptoms I found on-line that were provided by the Mayo Clinic just so some of you out there can see if you have any of them right now and keep them in mind should you notice any of them in the future.

Type 2 diabetes symptoms may develop very slowly. In fact, you can have type 2 diabetes for years and not even know it. Look for:

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination. As excess sugar builds up in your bloodstream, fluid is pulled from the tissues. This may leave you thirsty. As a result, you may drink — and urinate — more than usual.
  • Increased hunger. Without enough insulin to move sugar into your cells, your muscles and organs become depleted for energy. This triggers intense hunger.
  • Weight loss. Despite eating more than usual to relieve hunger, you may lose weight. Without the ability to use glucose, the body uses alternative fuels stored in muscle and fat. Calories are lost as excess glucose is released in the urine.
  • Fatigue. If your cells are deprived of sugar, you may become tired and irritable.
  • Blurred vision. If your blood sugar is too high, fluid may be pulled from the lenses of your eyes. This may affect your ability to focus clearly.
  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections. Type 2 diabetes affects your ability to heal and resist infections.
  • Areas of darkened skin. Some people with type 2 diabetes have patches of dark, velvety skin in the folds and creases of their bodies — usually in the armpits and neck. This condition, called acanthosis nigricans, may be a sign of insulin resistance.
If you notice one or two of the above symptoms, please don't do what I did and chalk it up to the natural aging process.  Yes! A good many things may slowly change about yourself but most of those ARE due to advancing age.  Let's face it, growing older has negative consequences for most of us.  You are one of the lucky ones if you haven't noticed things changing for you.  Make a list of things you notice and talk them over with your doctor as soon as you can.  Don't allow him to tell you it's nothing. "You're imagining all of it" is not an acceptable answer from a medical professional. This is not one of those cases of being damned if you do and damned if you don't.  It's just too easy to check your blood sugar. But...if you don't mention things you've noticed to your doctor, damned could be exactly what you will become. If I'm scaring you...GOOD! More people need to be very afraid and alert but let's not get carried away and become Whackos and Wingnuts about every little ache and pain. That's where hypochondriacs come from and we certainly don't need any more of those clogging up ERs and doctor waiting rooms.

For years after I passed the age of 40,  I noticed that my fingertips got to humming a lot when I drove my car and I drove my car a lot. That's the problem with Type 2, adult onset, diabetes, it diabolically slow and persistent.  I told myself that it was simply the blood draining away from my hands because they were almost above my heart's position in my chest. I worked on old cars a lot because that's all I could afford then. Laying on the ground and reaching up over my head to loosen some bolts or hold up a part with one hand while replacing the bolts with the other was often very painful. No wonder I thought nothing of it when in later years finger and hand numbness became a common problem under a variety of circumstances.

In my late 50's I had periods when I'd get so light headed that the only thing I could do that made it go away was to go lay down for an hour or so.  Once it disappeared, I was good to go. I also noticed that those spells usually came upon me shortly after I had eaten a good meal.

I drank approximately ten twelve ounce cans of Classic Coke for a decade or more. One can of Coke contains 140 calories due to its sugar content or at least, corn syrup content, I'm not sure which is which.  All I know is, I was putting around 1400 calories into my body solely from my favorite beverage.  Here's something I wondered about as an after thought: Why don't I weigh 300 lbs?  For many years I hovered around 200 lbs and told myself I was feeling pretty good for my age.  Perhaps I was but the bottom didn't just drop out one day. I did a lot of walking on my regular job and I was also an avid hunter.  I'd work all week and then go out on the weekends and walk for miles over hill and dale, through fields of briars and brambles, hunting wild rabbits. The same could be said for hunting squirrels. Both game types required plenty of walking up and down hills or along steep hill sides. I considered myself to be in great shape all that time.

After I turned fifty, I suddenly had a problem with gallstones that required emergency surgery. After that I had a bout of Ecoli that put me in the hospital for almost a week and even after I recovered from that, I was still weak as a kitten.  My digestive system never did return to normal.  I was bothered with ulcers, acid indigestion, acid name it. If it was related to my intestinal tract, it was a problem.  I was told they had to give me some new, very powerful antibiotics with the ruptured gallbladder and the Ecoli.  That killed all the good bacteria along with the bad.  Try as I may, my attempts to replenish the enzymes and bacteria in my digestive tract was a pitiful failure.  It was all downhill after that. My immune system was shot. How else was I supposed to feel except bad?

I never really expected to live past the age of 40 years for most of my life and then, I made it past 40 years, then fifty years and then 60 years.  Feeling bad most of the time was life for me. I stopped smoking. I still didn't feel great.  I really missed feeling great.  We lost our "Baby Brother" at the age of 41; he had Type 1 Diabetes from a very young age and it took him pretty quick and then one of my older sisters and shortly after that, our oldest sister.  One died of breast cancer and the other died after suffering with Type 2 diabetes for years. My Father had diabetes and heart complications due to that disease and lived to be 82 years old. Diabetes was in my family all along.

Is it in your family?  NO!  Are you sure?
How long has it been since you've had your blood glucose levels checked?
Better safe than sorry!

If you have someone in your family with diabetes and they are taking insulin and checks their blood sugar every day, I'm sure they'd check yours the next time you visit.  You don't need to go to your doctor's office to have it done.  A modern glucose meter and a test strip that costs about one dollar each can put your mind at ease.  That's not much of an investment for some peace of mind for a period of time.

I hate having to check my blood sugar all the time and I hate it even worse having to stick needles in my belly twice a day to inject insulin but it's better than having a foot or leg amputated or going blind or any of the other problems caused by too much sugar in one's blood.

I've already lost most of the sense of feel in my fingers and in my feet.  Do you think that's nothing?  Let me tell's bad enough to make you wish you had told someone about all the little things that are going on in your life that seem unusual for the normal YOU.

Watch your diet!  Man! Is that a millstone around your neck.  Too much trouble?  Eat what you want and counteract it with insulin.  That's what my oldest sister thought too. What's really bad is ... I catch myself thinking similar thoughts now and then.

Another thing, I now weigh 250 plus or minus, depending on the time of year. I am hungry all the time.  I gain weight if I only smell a cake or something else taboo for a diabetic. The doctor tells me it's the insulin making me hungry and easy to gain weight no matter what I eat. Is this a "Catch 22?"  I've often wondered what it would be like to be caught up in one of those nightmares. I don't like it.  Neither will you if you develop adult onset, Type 2 Diabetes.

Try typing all that I just typed without feeling in your hands.  It's a miracle I tell you.

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