(BPT) – Diabetes is a complex disease affecting more than 29 million people in the United States. Although there is no cure, patients with diabetes see better results when the disease is closely managed through lifestyle changes and medication. Along with making good choices about healthy eating and physical activity, patients living with diabetes should discuss blood sugar monitoring, medication, and options for taking their medication with their health care providers.
Betty Krauss, RDN, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) with Spectrum Health Medical Group, talks diabetes management and suggests what patients can discuss with their doctors at their next appointment.
What is diabetes?
Krauss: Diabetes occurs when the body does not properly use and/or produce enough insulin. Insulin is the hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy. There are 2 types of diabetes: type 1, in which the body makes little to no insulin, and type 2, in which the body produces too little insulin or cannot properly use the insulin that is produced. When the body does not properly use or produce insulin, blood sugar can reach levels outside of healthy ranges. It’s important to manage your diabetes because high blood sugar can damage your body and lead to other health problems if left untreated.
What impact does lifestyle – like healthy eating and physical activity – have on diabetes?
Krauss: Balancing both lifestyle changes with the proper medicine is important for diabetes management. Building a diabetes-friendly meal plan can help you understand and manage carbohydrates, sugars, and fats and manage your weight. Physical activity can help your body become more sensitive to insulin so it can work more efficiently and helps your muscles burn sugar for energy, which removes sugar from the blood. Additionally, careful monitoring is key for diabetes patients to ensure their blood sugar remains within a desired range.
What can patients with diabetes do to manage their disease beyond lifestyle changes?
Krauss: In addition to healthy eating, physical activity, and blood sugar monitoring, medication is an important part of managing diabetes. There are a variety of treatment options, and patients should work closely with their health care providers to ensure their treatment plan is helping them reach their blood sugar goals.
What medication options are available to patients with diabetes?
Krauss: Patients should work with their health care provider to customize a diabetes treatment plan that includes the right medication for reaching their blood sugar goals. Typically, these options include an insulin or noninsulin medication, and may be pills taken by mouth or injections given under the skin.
What options do patients with diabetes have for administering injectable medications?
Krauss: For patients with diabetes who require daily injections of medication, diabetes management can initially be uncomfortable. In fact, one study revealed that 83 percent of people are somewhat or very much bothered by needles when they first start injecting. Thankfully, advancements in technology mean that there are options for these patients.
Today, most insulin and noninsulin injectable medications are available in pen devices, which help patients by providing accurate and reliable dosing. Additional important advancements have been made to reduce the length and thickness of needles, which are associated with the pain and anxiety that can be caused by injections.
We have come a long way since the world’s first pen needle was launched in 1985 by Novo Nordisk, a world leader in diabetes care. More recently, Novo Nordisk launched NovoFine(R) Plus, an ultra-short, ultra-thin needle – the width of two human hairs – designed to allow for better flow of medication and for less pain.
Do all needles fit on all delivery devices?
Krauss: Some needles, like NovoFine(R) Plus, are universal, which means they will fit all currently available insulin pens. But patients should choose their pen needle carefully because not all needles will fit on all pens. I encourage patients with diabetes to talk with their pharmacist to ensure they are getting the best pen needle for their pen.
What should patients with diabetes discuss with their health care providers?
Krauss: In addition to appropriate medication, it is also important to discuss how the medication is taken. For example, if daily injections are needed, using a pen with the smallest possible needle may cause less pain.
It is also important to talk about blood sugar monitoring, so patients understand how often and what time of day they need to check their blood sugar, as this can vary from person to person.
Lastly, lifestyle is important to successful diabetes management. Patients should discuss healthy eating and physical activity so their health care providers can advise how best to implement physical activity into daily routines, as well as how to maintain a healthy diet.
For more information on how to manage diabetes, visit www.cornerstones4care.com.