by | Nov 14, 2020 | Health

November is Diabetes Awareness month!

Join Keystone Medical this month in creating awareness around this common health condition.

Diabetes explained

Diabetes is a chronic condition known by the characteristic of elevated blood sugar levels. (1). There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes: The body is unable to produce Insulin
  • Type 2 diabetes: The body is unable to use Insulin efficiently

Insulin is the hormone that controls how much sugar (also known as glucose) is released into your cells to be used by the body as energy. Insulin can be seen as the key that turns the lock to open the door of the cell in order for sugar to enter the cell. Without insulin, a condition called hyperglycemia can occur, where blood sugar builds up in your bloodstream instead of traveling into your cells. (2)
While there is no cure for it yet, diabetes can be managed with lifestyle and dietary changes, or various types of medications like insulin.

Type I Diabetes

Mostly diagnosed in children, teenagers and young adults.  With this diagnosis, the body is unable to make Insulin for itself. Although the cause is unknown, Type I diabetes may be due to an autoimmune response caused by an infection or other trigger, causing your body to mistakenly attack and damage the Beta cells in your pancreas responsible for the production of insulin. (3)

There are not many risk factors for type I diabetes, though genetics is believed to play a role. 

With a diagnosis of Type I diabetes, important lifestyle changes are required.  Daily insulin intake is necessary, and your blood sugar levels will need to be monitored frequently throughout the day.  Endocrinologist Dr Rocio Salas-Whalen (MD of New York endocrinology) describes this as a “frustrating and tiresome adjustment, but it crucial that patients educate themselves on how certain foods impact glucose levels.”

Type II diabetes

Mostly diagnosed in adults, however, becoming more and more common in children and teenagers. (4) With this diagnosis, your body can produce Insulin, however, cannot use it effectively, known as insulin resistance. This happens when the liver, muscle and fat cells do not efficiently take in the blood sugar from the blood to use for energy.  As a result, blood sugar levels increases, which can eventually lead to type II diabetes.

You are more at risk for type II diabetes if you:

  • Are 45 years old or older
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Don’t exercise regularly
  • Have a family history of type II diabetes
  • Certain population groups especially people of Indian origin

In addition to eating a healthy diet, it is very important for people with Type II diabetes to maintain a healthy weight, Salas-Whalen says, as this is critical in controlling blood sugar levels. (4)

Gestational diabetes

Pregnant women may develop Gestational diabetes, which is caused by the body’s inability to produce the extra insulin needed during pregnancy and should routinely be tested between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy.  Gestational diabetes increases the risk for type II diabetes or obesity later in the child’s life. It usually goes away after the baby is born. (5) If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will need a healthy eating plan and should remain physically active to help keep your blood sugars low. Treatment during pregnancy is however often necessary. Your chances of a large baby at delivery (macrosomic baby) also increases drastically with the diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes.

Signs of diabetes:

  • Urinating frequently, especially at night (polyuria)
  • Feeling very thirsty or hungry (polydipsia)
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Sores that take a long time to heal

These symptoms develop slowly over time, and it may be difficult to recognize them, especially if you have type II diabetes. The signs of type I diabetes may be more severe and can also include nausea or vomiting.  Many people diagnosed with diabetes will have to monitor their blood sugar levels multiple times during the day using a glucose meter. (4)

Ultrasound findings in diabetes

It has become common practice for a practitioner to request an abdominal ultrasound if you have been diagnosed, or are on treatment for diabetes. This is to evaluate the major organs in the abdominal cavity.  (5)These include your liver, gallbladder and biliary tract, kidneys, spleen, pancreas and bladder.  Uncontrolled diabetes has a negative effect on all of your organs. Evaluation with ultrasound can assist your practitioner in managing as well as monitoring your treatment and control.

Ultrasound scans do not use any radiation and are completely safe even during pregnancy. Ultrasound or Sonar sues high frequency sound waves to capture images. Abdominal ultrasounds are used to visualize organs and structures in detail inside the abdomen.

Abdominal ultrasound scans are performed to rule out (1):

  • Abdominal aorta aneurysms
  • Tumours
  • Appendicitis
  • Enlarged organs
  • The fluid within the abdominal cavity
  • Kidney stones
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallstones

When booking for your abdominal ultrasound, it is important to mention that you are diabetic, as we need you to be fasting for at least 6 hours to accurately perform the ultrasound.  We will schedule you for an early appointment. 

We offer these services at most of our branches:

For more information on imaging services, reach out to Keystone Radiology at 087 055 0587 or info@ks-med.co.za

Make a booking

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  1. Goldman, Laura. Health Reference. Insider. [Online] 25 September 2020. https://www.insider.com/what-is-diabetes.
  2. Ernst, Holly. Healthline. [Online] 2018. [Cited: 22 10 2020.] https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes#takeaway.
  3. Javed Anwar, Muhammad Omer Aamir, Sanaullah, Zeeshan ul Hasnain Imdad, Ishrat Parveen, Nasreen Yousaf. ncbi. Pubmed.com. [Online] Oct-Dec 2015. [Cited: 22 10 2020.] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27004328/#:~:text=Background%3A%20Diabetes%20mellitus%20is%20a,crystals%20all%20sit%20well%20togethe.
  4. GP care. [Online] [Cited: 22 10 2020.] https://www.gpcare.org.uk/cms/documents/Abdomen_and_Pelvis_Ultrasound_Scan_Preparation.pdf.
  5. Watson, Stephanie. Healthline. [Online] 20 Feb 2020. [Cited: 22 10 220.] https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes#:~:text=Diabetes%20mellitus%2C%20commonly%20known%20as,the%20insulin%20it%20does%20make.


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