23 February 2019
Diabetic patients must adhere to a healthy, balanced diet, do regular exercise and take medication as prescribed. Photo: HKEJ
Diabetic patients must adhere to a healthy, balanced diet, do regular exercise and take medication as prescribed. Photo: HKEJ

What to do if you are diabetic

This year’s World Diabetes Day will be observed on Monday, Nov. 14, with the theme “Eyes on Diabetes”.

Glucose is transported by blood to various parts of the body to fuel metabolism.

Too much of glucose, however, may lead to vascular diseases such as retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy, which could cause damage to organs and tissues.

Why should we be concerned about diabetes complications?

Here’s a story about a diabetes patient. 

Fun, who is in her 40s, has been suffering from diabetes and obesity for more than 10 years.

During a regular screening, it was confirmed that she had diabetic retinopathy, a diabetic complication that affects the eyes.

Her control over her blood glucose level was unsatisfactory because she often failed to stick to her restricted diet, did inadequate exercise, and sometimes even forgot to take her medicines.

One day, she noticed that her left eye had a blurred vision. An ophthalmologist confirmed that significant hemorrhage had occurred in her retina.

Despite a successful surgery, her vision did not fully recover.

Because of her experience, Fun made up her mind to manage her condition by putting her blood glucose level under control.

She adhered to a healthy balanced diet, did regular exercise and took medication as scheduled.

As a result of her determination, her diabetes, along with her eyesight, improved and remained stable.

There were no signs of the emergence of other complications.

During the early stages (non-proliferative) of diabetic retinopathy, symptoms are mild or nonexistent. 

But when the condition worsens into a proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the patient may suffer from bleeding of the retina or even retinal detachment, resulting in severe vision loss and even blindness.

Early detection of diabetes complications is crucial so that early intervention and treatment could be put in place, thus preventing further harm to the patient.

Research findings show that proper management of blood glucose level in diabetic patients could effectively prevent the occurrence or at least slow down the worsening of microvascular complications of diabetes.

A comprehensive checkup will include monitoring for coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and erectile dysfunction.

Regular measurement of vital signs such as blood pressure and weight as well as vision test, ophthalmoscopy, lower limb neurological examination and urine microalbumin test should also be conducted.

The following are useful tips for diabetic patients:

1. Good management on blood glucose level could effectively prevent and control diabetes and its complications.

2. Patients should take regular (at least every two or three years) screening tests for diabetes complications.

3. If diagnosed with any complications, patients should strictly follow the advice of medical professionals to prevent worsening of the condition.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 11.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Specialist in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism

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