November 14th, 2011
By Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN
If you are a nurse in direct patient care you deal with patients with diabetes. If you are going to be a nurse in direct patient care you will deal with diabetes. It doesn't matter what specialty area you enter diabetes is a known quantity and it will be unlikely you will ever have a day that doesn't involve a patient with diabetes.
Today, November 14, 2011 is World Diabetes Day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 346 million people worldwide have diabetes and that number is likely to double by the year 2030 if we don't do something to stop it. That is one in 10 adults. Almost 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body's systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
In a report issued today by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) the advocacy group estimated that 552 million people could have diabetes in two decades' time based on factors like aging and demographic changes. Currently, the group says that about one adult in 13 has diabetes.
The figure includes both types of diabetes as well as cases that are undiagnosed. The group expects the number of cases to jump by 90 percent even in Africa, where infectious diseases have previously been the top killer. Without including the impact of increasing obesity, the International Diabetes Federation said its figures were conservative.
World Diabetes Day raises global awareness of diabetes. Started by the IDF and WHO, the day marks the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, was instrumental in the discovery of insulin in 1922, a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients.
There are four major types of diabetes:
Recent research has shown some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during prediabetes.
Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children with Type 1 diabetes can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy, happy lives.
In Type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can lead to diabetes complications.
It is unknown what causes gestational diabetes, but there are some clues. The placenta supports the baby as it grows. Hormones from the placenta help the baby develop. But these hormones also block the action of the mother's insulin in her body. This problem is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance makes it hard for the mother's body to use insulin. She may need up to three times as much insulin.
The potential for nurses to contribute to improvement in the health of populations across the world through attention to chronic disease prevention and care has never been greater. Teaching is the key. There is an urgent need for nurses everywhere to take the initiative and engage with all parts of the community and all sectors to address the growing threat chronic diseases pose to global health and well being.