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Basic Diabetes Manual in Singapore: Types, Symptoms, and Management

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Singapore has declared diabetes as a health crisis. It was proclaimed by the country’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, in the 2017 National Day Rally.

Diabetes mellitus affects one in nine Singaporeans, with older people being more prone to it. According to statistics, about 30% of those affected by diabetes in Singapore are older adults past 60. Moreover, 8.6% of Singaporeans aged 18-69 have diabetes.

Let us learn more about the disease affecting not only Singaporeans but many people worldwide. What are gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes, uncontrolled diabetes, insulin resistance, and more? Who is at an increased risk of developing diabetes? And how do you care for someone with diabetes and other chronic illnesses?

Diabetes Singapore – Defining the Disease

Insulin is a hormone responsible for converting blood glucose into energy. When the body finds it hard to use insulin efficiently or can no longer produce enough insulin, you begin developing diabetes symptoms.

You will know that you already have diabetes (or are nearing it) when your blood glucose level is higher than 11mmol/l. Most people’s healthy blood glucose levels range from 4 mmol/l to 7.8 mmol/l.

Before developing type 2 diabetes, you will first undergo the pre-diabetes stage (not unless your blood glucose levels are exemplary high). People in this category are those with high blood glucose levels but still not enough to be qualified for type 2 diabetes. This doesn’t mean that this stage isn’t serious. If not cured, it can lead to stroke, heart ailment, and type 2 diabetes.

So how do you reverse the condition to avoid developing type 2 diabetes? Take note that diabetes has no cure. Once diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you need to take enough insulin jabs or medications to manage your blood glucose levels. And you will employ steps to manage diabetes and your blood sugar level for the rest of your life.

This is why it’s important to decrease your risk of developing diabetes while you are still in the pre-diabetes stage. . You can begin with a healthy diet and losing weight if you are on the heavy side. It will also help to become physically active and sustain a healthy weight.

This early, you must know what you can about diabetes prevention program. Your goal is to prevent diabetes. You must work doubly hard on your diabetes management plan if you have a family history of developing diabetes. This means you have a higher risk of insulin resistance and developing this chronic disease.

Learning More About the Types of Diabetes

You may already be familiar with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. But what does it mean to diagnose diabetes according to type? And what are the other types of diabetes you must be aware of?

Type 1 Diabetes

To diagnose diabetes as type 1 means you have an autoimmune disease. The immune system kills insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. More. More studies are being done to find out why the immune system attacks and reacts this way.

Type 2 Diabetes

You get diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when you develop insulin resistance, so your body doesn’t get enough insulin. Most patients diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. According to data, up to 95% of people who develop diabetes have type 2 diabetes, making it the most common type of diabetes.

Type 1.5 Diabetes

This diabetes is referred to as LADA or latent autoimmune diabetes in adults. It’s an autoimmune disease that commonly occurs in adults. Similar to type 2 diabetes, it gradually sets in. Moreover, it’s a lifelong disease you cannot treat through healthy eating, a healthy diet, or keeping a healthy body weight.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is caused by the placenta of a pregnant woman producing hormones that block insulin. As a result, you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. To diagnose gestational diabetes means a higher blood sugar level. When gestational diabetes occurs, you develop an increased risk of having impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance.

Diabetes Insipidus

This is a rare form of diabetes, which happens when the kidneys drain too much liquid from your system.

Neonatal Diabetes

Neonatal diabetes is a kind of monogenic diabetes. It’s rare and typically occurs within the first six months of a newborn’s life.

Diabetes Symptoms in Older Adults

Whether you’re a family, nursing home staff, or a live in caregiver, you must know the symptoms to look out for, signifying that your elderly patients may already have diabetes. This will prompt you to impose lifestyle changes, manage their blood sugar levels, and implement proper diabetes management.

Feeling tired all the time

Seniors may often feel tired due to dehydration brought on by high blood sugar levels. It also happens as a result of the body’s difficulty in converting glucose into energy. It will continue like this until the blood sugar level drops.

Frequent thirst and urination

Digestive and kidney diseases often follow a diabetes diagnosis. Part of diabetes complications include your kidneys working overtime. As a result, excess blood glucose accumulates in the blood.

The excess blood glucose is discharged into your urine. It happens as the kidneys work in filtering blood glucose, pulling fluids from your body.

This may cause you to experience polydipsia, your body’s reaction to fluid loss. The condition makes you thirstier than usual and makes you urinate more frequently.

Feeling dizzy and fainting

Older persons with diabetes may experience episodes of hypoglycemia characterized by dizziness or fainting. Hypoglycemia refers to a blood sugar level under 70 mg.

Low blood sugar levels will make you feel weak, have blurred vision, are unsteady, confused, and even faint. Consuming fruit juice or glucose pills can quickly raise blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Slow healing sores

Some older persons with diabetes report that their wounds heal more slowly than usual. You may also likely observe the emergence of sores and skin infections that don’t go away right away.

This might be because elevated blood glucose sugar impairs circulation, which impedes the body’s natural healing process. Furthermore, diabetes in women can increase the frequency of vaginal yeast infections and bladder infections.

Tingling effects on hands and feet

People with diabetes often experience peripheral neuropathy. This condition causes tingling, numbness, weakness, or even pain in the hands and feet. Around half of the people with diabetes suffer nerve damage, especially those who have had diabetes for a long time.


The fluctuations in blood sugar levels brought by diabetes are not always compatible with the consistent glucose delivery our brain needs to function correctly. So, it should come as no surprise that headaches are a typical sign of diabetes in older adults.

Gum issues

In elderly persons, red, swollen, and sore gums are another sign of diabetes. This is due to the possibility of infection in your gums and the bones supporting your teeth.

In addition to inflamed gums, other warning signs to watch out for include loose teeth, sores, and pus-filled pockets in your gums.

Blurred vision

High blood sugar levels can cause the eye lenses to dry, making it difficult for the eyes to focus. This diabetic symptom, if left untreated, can lead to the development of new blood vessels behind your retina. As a result, it will harm the already existing blood vessels. It may eventually result in a partial or whole loss of vision.

Dry mouth

Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is another symptom of diabetes in older persons. This unpleasant sensation happens when your mouth cannot create enough saliva and is frequently accompanied by dry, cracked lips and a rough-feeling tongue.

Increased appetite

Being more hungry than normal, or polyphagia is another symptom of diabetes in older people. Because diabetes stops dietary blood glucose from reaching your cells, you experience polyphagia.

It causes you to experience hunger pangs even after a substantial meal. This condition can start a frustrating loop in which you eat more, which raises your blood glucose levels. It will then make you crave more sweets.

Diabetes Risk Factors

Here are the top factors that increase the risk of developing diabetes mellitus. Take note of the following risk factors, learn how to manage diabetes, and have a healthy diet once you see yourself at a high risk of developing the disease:

  • Family history
  • You have a higher risk of having diabetes when you have a family history of the disease.
  • High amounts of body fat or above 23kg/m2 BMI
  • This state of your body makes you more insulin resistant, therefore adding to the risk factors of the disease.
  • Having low levels of good cholesterol and high levels of blood lipid or the bad ones
  • A negative result in your glucose tolerance test

Once you hit the pre-diabetic stage and your glucose tolerance test results turn out to be negative, you become more at risk of developing the disease. This will likely happen if you won’t make any lifestyle changes.

  • High blood pressure

Aside from diabetes, high blood pressure (above 140/90mm Hg) is a risk factor for diabetes complications, heart disease, poor blood flow, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems.

  • Sedentary lifestyle

Lacking physical activity in your everyday life increases your BMI. Also, the lack of physical activity reduces your cells’ insulin sensitivity.

  • Reaching 40 years of age

While there is maturity-onset diabetes of the young, which is experienced by young people, around 90% of diabetics around the world are aged 40 and up.

  • Gestational diabetes

When you get a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, it will likely progress to type 2 diabetes. This is why you have to be extra careful, especially when pregnant.

While you are at a higher risk of having gestational diabetes when you had the diagnosis before, it is also likely that you will get gestational diabetes after giving birth to a baby weight more than 4 kilos.

More on the Complications of Diabetes

Managing diabetes becomes harder when your blood sugar tested shows extremely high results. Even when you get an average blood glucose level one time, it doesn’t assure that the results will remain that way the next time you take a blood glucose test.

You need to prevent complications, which range from acute to serious and long-term.

Acture complications:

  • Having low blood sugar or severe low blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state

Long-term diabetic complications:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Kidney diseases
  • Hearing loss
  • Amputations
  • Nephropathy causing kidney disease
  • Mental health issues and other health problems

Diabetes Prevention, Management, and Treatment

Diabetes management tips

Diabetes is an autoimmune and hereditary disease that cannot be prevented. Yet there are several actions you may take to reduce your chance of getting gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and pre-diabetes:

  • Do not smoke or quit the vice
  • Get fit and exercise
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Get sufficient quality sleep

Meanwhile, here are the four primary aspects of diabetes management:

  • Proper diet and exercise
  • Getting enough insulin
  • Oral medication for diabetes
  • Blood sugar monitoring through oral glucose tolerance test

Final Thoughts

Although receiving a diabetes diagnosis is life-changing, it should not prevent you from leading a fulfilled and healthy life regardless of your age. It’ll take a while, but you’ll eventually better understand the condition. In time, you’ll be able to practice proper diabetes management.

If you have an elderly family member with diabetes whom you can’t attend to personally, you may want to consider other care options. RC Caregivers offers services, including nursing homes, assisted living, and home care for seniors needing our help. Check our guide about proper elderly care and other areas we can assist you with.

Joshua is the founder of RC Caregivers. Having been the primary caregiver of his father, he has been undertaking ways to provide affordable and quality care, not just to his father, but to all elderly in Singapore. He has founded multiple care companies, such as Red Crowns Senior Living, and has been featured in Straits Times, Zaobao and Money 93FM. He has also been lauded by DBS, with the company being the recipient of the DBS foundation grant.
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