Diabetes, Myths, Medicine and Management

I know how important the St Vincent Declaration is and wish it would be applied! Too many people are ignorant of the real causes of Type 2 and Type 1 diabetes and prefer to perpetuate myths about sufferers. It is time the blame culture in medicine was recognised for the damaging set of myths it is and that doctors focused on treatment in the early stages instead of hiding behind government publicised blame myths and a few arbitrary figures. The necessity of treatment is decided only by numbers on a scale and symptoms are ignored. It is time for an end to inaction and patient suffering!

The St Vincent Declaration

The St Vincent Declaration is a promise to sufferers that they will receive the best available medical care to avoid the worst complications of untreated diabetes which include blindness, kidney failure and gangrene…. Although the St Vincent Declaration is conveniently forgotten about and hardly ever applied, it is available to download and read. Be informed of this when you speak to your doctor! You deserve the best treatment, the treatment you would expect for any illness, not being put off and put off indefinitely until your illness becomes life threatening!

What is Insulin?

Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that breaks down glucose. It does this so the glucose can enter the cell and be converted into energy by the mitochondria. If you are insulin resistant the cells react slowly and this slows the rate of glucose use. The glucose level in the blood increases leading to pre diabetes. The free glucose in the blood goes to the liver where it is turned to lipids and it is stored as fat in the body. The pancreas struggles to make more insulin and this insulin in the blood stream stimulates the liver to produce more lipids and cholesterol – a viscious circle which makes you more prone to arterial disease and heart attacks.

Dangerous Myths About Diabetes

1. Pre diabetes is a condition with no physical symptoms

2. Diabetes and pre-diabetes are caused by sedentary lifestyle, obesity, insulin resistance, smoking, too many cakes and sweets, alcoholic abuse and an unhealthy lifestyle

3. Standard blood and urine tests are effective in diagnosis and prevention

4. Insulin resistance is reversible simply by losing weight and living a more active, healthy lifestyle.

5. Pre diabetes symptoms are due to obesity.

If the definition of obesity also includes a range between 20 pounds underweight and 20 pounds overweight perhaps…..

6. “A marked weight loss is observed in spite of an increase in appetite for the reason that the body cannot utilize the food, specifically the carbohydrates, into energy and fat, so it cannot be stored and you lose weight.”

This myth is only true once the pancreas has completely failed as in Type 1!

7. ” resistance to insulin and being overweight, which can be corrected by changing to a balanced regular exercise a nutritious diet and support to encourage healthier lifestyle changes”.

When the patient has already made those changes this is very unhelpful advice and support indeed!

8. Being overweight is the main cause of insulin resistance which causes the development of diabetes.

Overweight? How overweight? 1 pound? 1 stone, 2 stones, 10 kilos, 100 kilos? No, diabetes is a condition that is predominantly hereditary. Thin people may also develop it if they have a genetic predisposition. Some people can be morbidly overweight, yet still not develop the condition because good genes protect them!.

9. “Other conditions and symptoms like high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels that may arise because of pre diabetes should …… be treated with medications until weight is controlled and lowered to normal levels. As soon as the diet affects insulin production into normal, cholesterol and blood pressure will also normalize.”

Not only bad grammar, but also untrue! Blood pressure caused or aggravated by insulin resistance and hormone imbalance is often entrenched by the time insulin resistance is discovered. Unless the patient is actually morbidly obese through overeating, these changes will not reduce the need for a lifetime of medication!

10. One size fits all. Lose weight, exercise and give up unhealthy habits and you will either cure yourself of or prevent diabetes.

Indicative only of prejudice in a zero tolerance climate! This takes no account of individual weight differences let alone differences in the ability to tolerate high blood glucose levels!

Symptoms of “Pre-Diabetes”

Diabetes is a condition that can easily be lived with if caught and treated early and correctly. Prejudice and ignorance prevents this.

It is time for a change!

So you too were told there is no such thing as pre-diabetic symptoms?

Think again! This is the most deadly myth of all!

Yes, they DO occur – and with frightening reality too!!!

If you have what doctors call “impaired fasting glycaemia” (blood glucose level is 6-7 after a complete 12 hour+ fast) you will most likely simply be monitored through annual or six-monthly tests until the number 7 is reached at which point you become diabetic, as if by magic. Then, if lucky, you will be referred to a hospital specialist for more thorough diagnosis and treatment. Before you reach that point, you will be advised to change your lifestyle and any symptoms will go untreated as treatment will be deemed unnecessary as you are not diabetic. Protestations that you have already changed your lifestyle will not be heard or believed!

However, the symptoms of pre-diabetes are real and frightening. They are caused by under diagnosis of diabetes based on number indexes only and perpetrated by the myth that Type 2 diabetes is the patient’s fault and completely reversible. In the UK, diabetics receive free medical treatment for life. Am I cynical because I believe early diabetics are kept untreated to avoid costing the NHS money? It is a viscious and false economy! The consequence of serious untreated illness makes a mockery of prevention. The symptoms can and do poison the lives of sufferers and their families and also undermine earning (and tax!) potential!

If you suffer from any of the symptoms listed below and your vision is blurred at times, please visit your optician and ask for diabetic screening. The first damage is often caused to the eye and you could be well on the way to blindness due to AMD, cataract or diabetic retinopathy before your diabetes is treated! A good eye examination will show up any changes due to elevated blood sugar and you will be referred to a proper specialist at the hospital. This is how my father was diagnosed with diabetes.

A Personal Viewpoint

After three years of unmitigated frustration, endless ineffective tests with borderline results, constant exhortations to give up foods I haven’t eaten for years anyway and take exercise I am already taking; add to this suspicious looks from work colleagues when headaches or visual disturbances cause time off …. etc …. etc… it is now happening for me too…. A kindly locum doctor recommended the optician as without evidence he could not (was not allowed to?) offer any treatment for my other symptoms!

Early Diabetes Symptoms

1. Polyuria, or increase in urination, the body is trying to flush out the excessive glucose in its cells with water.

2. An increased feeling of thirst is due to dehydration caused by polyuria

3. Tiredness occurs because glucose is not being utilized by the cells, this is not normal tiredness and can be accompanied by mood swings and fiery temper.

4. A feeling of being ill headaches, nausea or dizziness may occur due to decrease in energy production by the cells.

5. Blurred vision occurs when high glucose levels cause water to deform the lens of the eye making vision unfocused.

6. Thrush is caused by the drying up of skin due to increased blood sugar.

7. Insulin resistance causes cardiovascular disorders and polycystic ovarian syndrome, a disorder that may lead to infertility.

8. Related to 6, skin rashes and fungal infections may also occur on scalp and nails posing as psoriasis.

9. Decreased sensation, numbness, pins and needles in extremities. Can eventially lead to gangrene if untreated!

10. Pain in region of pancreas, a dull ache obviously indicates all is not well!

First published by myself on the link below, where a copy of the St Vincent Declaration is available via hyperlink….