People who have diabetes may hear or read a lot about controlling, or managing, the condition. But what is diabetes control and why is it so important?
When you hear your doctors or health care providers talk about "diabetes control," they're usually referring to how close your blood sugar, or glucose, is kept to the desired range. Having too much or too little sugar in your blood can lead you to feel sick now and can cause health problems later.
Managing diabetes is like a three-way balancing act: The medications you take (insulin or pills), the food you eat, and the amount of exercise you get all need to be in sync.
Diabetes can get out of control if someone:
Out-of-control blood sugar levels can lead to short-term problems like hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, or diabetic ketoacidosis. In the long run, not controlling diabetes can also damage the vessels that supply blood to important organs, like the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. This means that heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve problems can happen to people with diabetes.
These problems don't usually show up in kids or teens who have had the disease for only a few years, but they can happen to adults with diabetes. Kids and teens with diabetes who don't control their blood sugar levels can be late going into puberty and might not end up as tall as they would have otherwise.
The good news is that keeping blood sugar levels under control can help keep you healthy and prevent health problems from happening later.
If you have diabetes, your doctor or diabetes health care team will tell you what your blood sugar levels should be (usually called a target range). If you have diabetes, you're trying to keep your blood sugar level as close to the target range as possible. As you get older, your target range may change.
The only way to know if your blood sugar level is close to your target range is to measure your blood sugar level several times a day with a glucose meter. Your diabetes health care team will help you determine when and how often you should be checking your blood sugar level. Checking it regularly and keeping a record of the test results is very important — this helps you and your diabetes health care team make adjustments to your diabetes management plan as needed.
The glucose meter tells you what your blood sugar level is at the moment you test. But another type of blood sugar test, the glycosylated hemoglobin (pronounced: gly-koh-sih-lay-tid he-muh-glo-bin and also known as the hemoglobin A1c or HbA1c) test, will help you and your doctor know how your blood sugar control was over the 2 to 3 months before the test was done. In general, the lower your HbA1C level, the better you're doing at controlling your diabetes.
Keeping blood sugar levels close to normal will be challenging at times. However, you can help keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range with these steps:
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2011
|American Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.|
|Children With Diabetes This website offers true stories about kids and teens who have diabetes.|
|Joslin Diabetes Center The website of this Boston-based center has information about how to monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.|
|Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.|
|Medicines for Diabetes Taking medicines is a major part of staying healthy if you have diabetes because they help you keep your blood sugar levels under control.|
|Sports, Exercise, and Diabetes Teens with diabetes can exercise and play sports at the same level as everyone else, so whether you want to go for the gold or just go hiking in your hometown, diabetes shouldn't hold you back.|
|Diabetes Center Our Diabetes Center provides information and advice for teens about treating and living with diabetes.|
|Meal Plans and Diabetes People with diabetes don't need to be on strict diets, but do need to pay attention to what they eat and when. Crack open the cookbooks and surf to your favorite recipe website because it's time to plan meals that you love!|
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