Nurses encounter diabetes frequently in their clinical and non-clinical nursing. Still, patients don’t always fully understand the condition, and nurses need different levels of diabetes knowledge depending on whether they work in a clinical or non-clinical area. As a nurse, you are crucial to managing and educating patients about their health conditions. In this blog, we will explore the basics of diabetes, including the differences between type 1 and type 2, and highlight how important our role is as a nurse caring for patients with diabetes here in Australia.
Diabetes in Australia – The Statistics
- Men are more likely to have diabetes than women.
- 1 in 5 or 20% of Australians over age 80 have diabetes.
- Type 2 diabetes accounts for 85-90% of all diabetes cases, with type one accounting for up to 10%.
- In more than 60% of cases, type 2 diabetes can be prevented with education and lifestyle modifications such as diet improvement, regular exercise, and sleep hygiene.
(Australian Institute of Health and Welfare., 2023)
Understanding Diabetes: The Basics
Diabetes is a long-term metabolic disorder that makes it hard for the body to control the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Glucose gives our cells and organs the energy they need to work, and it is controlled mainly by the hormone insulin, made by the pancreas. In people with diabetes, there is either a lack of insulin production or the body becomes resistant to insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels.
Types of Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2
Type 1 Diabetes: An Autoimmune Battle
Type 1 diabetes, also called “juvenile” diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, happens when the body’s immune system attacks and kills the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin by accident. This autoimmune response results in little or no insulin production, causing glucose to build up in the bloodstream. Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and young adults but can occur at any age. The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, but genetics and environmental factors may play a role (Ohiagu, Franklyn O et al., 2021).
Management of Type 1 Diabetes:
Since individuals with type 1 diabetes cannot produce their insulin, they require daily insulin injections or an insulin pump to regulate their blood sugar levels. A healthy diet and regular exercise are essential to managing type 1 diabetes. Today, sensor monitors with Bluetooth can connect to phones and wristwatches to make daily monitoring easy and continuous (Partridge et al., 2016).
Type 2 Diabetes: A Lifestyle-Related Challenge
The most common type of diabetes is type 2 when the body stops responding to insulin or doesn’t make enough of it. It is often linked to a bad diet, insufficient exercise, and being overweight. Even though it’s more often diagnosed in adults, type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in children and teens as obesity rates rise (Pandey et al., 2015).
Management of Type 2 Diabetes:
Type 2 diabetes is often treatable by changing your lifestyle, such as eating healthier, being more active, and losing weight if needed. Oral medications may also be prescribed to help regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin injections may be needed if oral medications and lifestyle changes are insufficient to keep blood sugar levels in check. With either approach, many medications are available today for patients to manage their diabetes. Nurses must be familiar with these and contextualise them for their clinical area (Pandey et al., 2015).
As a nurse, your role in diabetes care and education is invaluable. By understanding the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes and their management strategies, you can provide better support and guidance to your patients, helping them lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. Remember that continuing to learn is vital to stay informed and giving the best care to people with diabetes.
I created and shared a post on Instagram about diabetes almost two years ago.
Over the next couple of weeks, there will be additional blogs on diabetes. These will continue to explore diabetes management, including the different medications and the possible complications and implications of fasting for surgery.
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Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2023). Diabetes: Australian facts, Summary – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/diabetes/diabetes/contents/summary
Ohiagu, Franklyn O, Chikezie, Paul C, & Chikezie, C. M. (2021). Pathophysiology of diabetes mellitus complications: Metabolic events and control. Biomedical Research and Therapy, 8(3), 4243-4257. https://doi.org/10.15419/bmrat.v8i3.663
Pandey, A., Chawla, S., & Guchhait, P. (2015). Type-2 diabetes: Current understanding and future perspectives. IUBMB Life, 67(7), 506-513. https://doi.org/10.1002/iub.1396
Partridge, H., Perkins, B., Mathieu, S., Nicholls, A., & Adeniji, K. (2016). Clinical recommendations in the management of the patient with type 1 diabetes on insulin pump therapy in the perioperative period: a primer for the anaesthetist. BJA: British Journal of Anaesthesia, 116(1), 18-26. https://doi.org/10.1093/bja/aev347