Blood Sugar Check

Blood sugar can be checked by patients at home. This is called SMBG (self-monitoring blood glucose) or in the laboratory. Small portable hand held battery operated devices are in common use. The accuracy has about 10% variability as compared to laboratory testing.

Indications :

All cases of Type I Diabetes mellitus should frequently check blood sugars. This should be done multiple times daily in most cases as fluctuations are more common in Type I DM

  • by those on multiple insulin injections daily,
  • while adjusting insulin doses,
  • when hypoglycemia is suspected,
  • before exercise /games etc
  • before driving.
  • During travel

It is required less frequently in Type II Diabetes. It is checked for patients on insulin and those having hypoglycemic episodes. Once a week check may be enough for most patients. Those who are on a tight control of sugars require more frequent checks.

It is also recommended during treatment of hypoglycemia to ensure that blood levels of glucose have improved and remain improved.

Time of Testing :

For type II cases and those suspected to have hypoglycemia often, morning and before dinner levels are useful. However, treatment should not be delayed in serious hypoglycemia suspicions as delay in correcting glucose levels may cause permanent injury to some organs especially nervous system.

Methods :

Venous or capillary blood is used for measurement of blood sugar. It can be measured in plasma or serum. Capillary and plasma levels are 10% lower and higher compared to venous and serum levels due to glucose utilization by tissues and RBCs.

Glucometers use strips impregnated with glucose oxidase. Most show plasma glucose rather than whole blood levels.

Calibration is required before using a fresh set of strips.

Best results are obtained if a lancet is used for puncture of the skin. Blood should come out easily rather than being squeezed from the fingertip. Sides of terminal digits should be used as punctures in front areas would be painful when hands are used. Hands should be washed and dried before a sample is taken.

Higher values may not be measured precisely and are often shown as High levels.

Test strips should be fresh and manufacturers guidelines should be adhered to.

Units of Measurement :

Old methods report sugar level in mg/deciliter while the newer methods are in mmol/liter. To convert from mg/dl to mmol /l the former values are divided by 18.

HbA1C or glycated Hb measures level over previous 12 weeks or so. The test, however, should be done in a fasting stage and is a good guide for overall diabetic control.

Smoking Tobacco

Smoking and use of Tobacco

Use of tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide. Nearly 6 million deaths every year are related to tobacco use in some form or other.

Nicotine can be used in the form of cigarettes, bidis, cigars, cigarillos, chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes and Hookahs.

Most adult smokers begin smoking before reaching adulthood. Cigarette smoking has become less prevalent in developed world during last 2 decades. The use is now less in graduates and economically well off people. However, the poor and uneducated have shown little change over the years. The less educated smokers do not try to quit smoking and if they try are less likely to continue abstaining as per the various data available.

The following diseases are linked to tobacco:

Cardiovascular disease- about ½ of all deaths in smokers are due to tobacco use. A large contribution to death is made by high incidence of ischemic (coronary artery disease) leading to heart attacks.

It is a leading factor in causing diabetes, hypertension, Chronic obstructive lung disease and infections in the lungs. Osteoporosis and bone fractures are more common in smokers.

A long list of cancers is associated with smoking. These include cancer of lungs, oral cavity (almost exclusively in tobacco chewers), esophageal cancer, urinary bladder cancer and various others.

Acid peptic disease (peptic ulcer) , various disorders of reproductive organs (decreased fertility and libido) are also related to smoking and tobacco use. In pregnant ladies exposure to tobacco leads to damage to the fetal organs and increased risk of pregnancy complications.

In patients who smoke, post operative period is less likely to be smooth. Infections especially of chest are common.

Quitting smoking and tobacco use:

Most of the harmful effects of smoking are reduced if the smoker quits. Quitting however is not easy due to high addiction of nicotine use.

Withdrawl syndrome similar to alcohol may occur in smokers.  This can lead to transient depression, sleeplessness, dysphoria, irritability and difficulty in performing tasks requiring concentration. Nevertheless the benefits of smoking cessation far outweigh the difficulty in quitting. Weight is common after smoking cessation.

To reduce the side effects of quitting and making it easier to quit, nicotine substitutes (patches or nicotine gums have been popular. Bupropion and varenicline are two drugs which increase the success rate in smokers who are trying to refrain from tobacco use.

Avoidance of tobacco use has to be lifelong. A long term vigil for first few years is necessary to prevent relapse.

Asthma

Asthma or Bronchial Asthma is a common disease. About 75 % cases start in childhood before 10 years of age. A large no of patients stop having symptoms at the time of puberty and some may again have the disease in the later years. It is uncommon after 50 years of age. It can be troublesome, disabling and if not treated properly may be dangerous.

The disease results from heightened reactivity of the airways in response to irritants, allergens, fumes and at times exercise. It is typically intermittent and a person feels well when there is no ongoing attack of asthma.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, cough and whistling sounds during breathing. These symptoms may also be seen in a no of heart, lung or infective conditions. Hence the diagnosis is usually made by experienced doctors after a few episodes have occurred!

The important markers of the disease are rapid reversibility of the signs and symptoms with appropriate treatment or spontaneously. Patients or their relatives often give a history of allergy.

The allergy may be due to seasonal pollens, pets in the house, dust from the carpets, molds, mites and many other substances. A person may be allergic to medicines. Aspirin can sometimes precipitate asthmatic attacks.

Attacks may come after short bursts of physical activity or after sustained effort. It can come after a few minutes of exercise and lasts for ½ to 1 hour. Since heart conditions (valvular and ischemic) may also cause shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, the distinction between these conditions is necessary. The time profile here may provide a clue to the doctor. If examined during an attack of asthma, physicians or nurses hear musical sounds (called rhonchi ) during exhalation. These occur at varying frequency and loudness in different parts of the chest. These are absent in between attacks. These may be absent during very severe attacks.

Laboratory Investigations:

Blood tests are of little value in diagnosis. Eosinophils are often increased in the blood. In severe cases, level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood is required.

Spirometry is carried out by the patient inhaling maximally and breathing out as fast as possible. The amount of air expelled in the 1st second as a percentage of the total inhaled volume is low. The importance of diagnosis is mainly in demonstrating the reversibility rapidly after drugs used to widen the bronchial airways. The drugs used are albuterol, salbutamol or terbutaline. This demonstration is sometimes required in cases where the diagnosis is not clear.

Chest X Rays are usually normal.

Treatment :

This consists of drugs used to widen airways and prevention of allergens and precipitating agents. These are beta agonists or anticholinergics. In severe cases, steroids and anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressing drugs are required for short periods. The drugs are preferably administered by inhalation after atomization through various devices. This reduces the amount of medicines as these go directly to the area of the disease. This curtails the bronchitis side effects of the medicines. Nebulisation is used for sustained delivery of drugs. In severe cases even mechanical ventilation is required during acute stages. Early treatment of episodes of asthma may ward off complications and hospitalizations.