Chief among the symptoms of diabetes are general weakness, loss of weight, excessive appetite, thirst, and excessive flow of urine. Itching is a much noticed symptom. The first sign of severe diabetes may be loss of consciousness, which is called diabetic coma.
Children have the disease more severely than do adults, and doctors believe that the greater the age when diabetes begins the less severe is the disease.
Nowadays diabetes is usually discovered by an examination of the urine, and sugar is likely to be found most often if the test is made immediately after a meal. When sugar is found in the urine, studies must also be made of the amount of sugar in the blood, particularly after the person has been fasting. A normal person has a blood sugar level when fasting of approximately 70 milligrams per 1100 milliliters of whole blood, whereas if the person has diabetes, the figure is nearer 150.
Simple tests have now been developed which people use themselves to get an indication as to whether or not there is sugar in the urine. When this is found, the physician should be asked to make all of the necessary studies to determine the severity of the condition and to prescribe treatment promptly in order to control the disease.
Diet and the use of insulin are the basic steps in controlling diabetes.
Since infections are exceedingly serious for persons who are diabetic, a complete study of the body should be made to eliminate any infections in the teeth, the sinuses, the chest, the gall bladder or elsewhere.
The diet is designed to bring the person to his ideal weight and to lessen the total amount of sugar taken into the body. Many persons do not require insulin immediately or when they are on the reduction diet. When insulin is required, the amount is given in relationship to the diet and the maintenance of normal weight. Patients must co-operate with the doctor in regulating the control of sugar in relation to insulin intake. Emotional stresses are serious. Infection may be severe, if not fatal. The diabetic patient must be kept clean. Immediate attention is given to all bruises and cuts of the skin. In caring for the nails the diabetic should avoid cutting or pushing of the cuticle. Most important is proper attention to the feet. These should be washed with warm water and a bland soap every day. They should be dried thoroughly but gently. Injuries to the feet must be avoided, and particularly injuries from the cutting of toenails or corns. Stockings should be clean, and loose-fitting but without wrinkles.