Diabetes Mellitus

Glucose is a type of sugar and an important fuel for the body. High blood glucose levels can be harmful, however. The level of glucose in the blood is usually controlled by insulin, produced in the pancreas, and other hormones. Diabetes mellitus, “diabetes”, is a group of medical conditions that occur when the body is either unable to produce enough insulin or does not respond to the effects of insulin properly. The end result is higher than normal blood glucose levels.  

Often having high blood sugar level causes no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include needing to urinate often, excessive thirst, tiredness, and blurred vision. If not treated, it can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. It can also affect your sight, or lead to blindness, affect the sensation of your hands and feet, and lead to infections.


Importance for PLHIV50+

People living with HIV (PLHIV) are approximately twice as likely to get diabetes when compared with the rest of the population. While genetics plays an important role, lifestyle factors, including physical activity, obesity, and nutrition are important. Some medications used in the treatment of HIV may impact the risk for diabetes.  

To find out if you have diabetes, your healthcare provider can do a blood test to check your blood sugar levels. The test might be normal, confirm diabetes, or indicate that you have “prediabetes” (also called “impaired glucose tolerance” or “impaired fasting glucose”). Prediabetes is a golden opportunity to reduce your risk of progressing to diabetes. Modest weight reduction, and lifestyle change can halve the risk of progression.


Management strategies

If you have diabetes there are a few things you can do to improve you blood sugar levels and even control diabetes. Modest weight reduction, achieving a healthy waist circumference, increasing physical activity, and improving your diet are all important management strategies for diabetes. Despite these, people often need medications to help lower their blood glucose, and sometimes need insulin injections. These are many treatments available now, which your doctor or endocrinologist (diabetes specialist) can prescribe.