Physical Therapy: Your Weapon Against Diabetes

Diabetes

More than 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and it affects both adults and children. Diabetes occurs when the body can’t make sufficient insulin, doesn’t make any at all, or can’t utilize what it does manufacture. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that enables people to use the glucose (sugar) they consume in foods to provide energy for the body to work and play.

There are three types of diabetes. Type 1 is known as juvenile diabetes since it typically begins in childhood. It’s an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the pancreas resulting in little, if any, insulin production. Type 1 diabetes requires daily insulin injections.

Type 2 diabetes is often referred to as adult onset diabetes and individuals may or may not require daily insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed with exercise, diet and oral medications. It also has a strong genetic component and is exacerbated by high-carbohydrate diets and lack of exercise. It can occur at any age, but is often seen in older adults.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and ordinarily disappears after childbirth, but the mother will have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes at any time thereafter.

Many of the symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be subtle, often overlooked, and are only discovered after long-term damage to the body has already occurred.

Patients with diabetes may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • More thirst than normal
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Increased breakage and hair loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth and itchy skin
  • Injuries and wounds that heal slowly
  • Yeast infections
  • Pain, numbness or tingling in legs and feet

People with type 1 diabetes often experience unplanned weight loss even though they haven’t made any changes in their diet. In type 1 diabetes, the body can’t utilize the food that’s being consumed and the body begins to burn fat and muscle to produce energy. As the body burns fat, ketones are produced and when they build to dangerous levels, nausea and vomiting can occur.