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Diabetes mellitus is a condition where the body cannot regulate the amount of sugar or glucose in the blood stream. This is because the body is either not producing enough insulin or because the cells in the body are not responding to the insulin that is being produced. A lack of regulation in the amount of sugar in the blood stream can lead to a variety of symptoms in both the short and long-term. The long-term effects of high blood sugars can lead to serious health complications. Physiotherapy can help individuals with diabetes to reduce the risk of developing secondary health problems and to lead a normal active lifestyle.

Symptoms of diabetes

Symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes include excessive thirst, a frequent need to pass urine, increased hunger, blurred vision and fatigue. There may also be some unexplained weight loss, nausea or abdominal pain. Once diabetes is diagnosed and the individual’s blood sugars are under control, these symptoms will diminish.

Mobility exercises supervised by MSK physiotherapistsAbove: Mobility exercises supervised by MSK physiotherapists

Types of diabetes

There are 3 main types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes is often known as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile diabetes as it usually affects children and young adults. Symptoms start over weeks/months as the pancreas stops producing insulin and blood sugars rise.

Type 2 Diabetes is often known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult onset diabetes. It has a gradual onset and affects adults who are often obese as the cells stop responding to the insulin that is being produced by the body.

The third type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes (GDM). It resembles type 2 diabetes but it occurs during pregnancy and often disappears after delivery. It is important that the mother maintains strict control of blood sugars during pregnancy to avoid any harm to the unborn child.

Diagnosis of diabetes

Diabetes is diagnosed by your general practitioner using the results of a fasting blood glucose test. High levels of glucose in the blood before eating indicate that the pancreas is not producing enough insulin or the body is not responding to it appropriately. Your doctor will confirm the subtype of diabetes and commence appropriate treatment.

Treatment of diabetes

There is no cure for diabetes. It is managed using a combination of medication, diet and exercise. It is important that the individual understand the diagnosis and learns how to control their blood sugar levels independently. With support from a diabetic nurse, appropriate insulin delivery, a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle it is possible to achieve target blood glucose levels. However, without this glucose control, diabetes can cause a number of short and long-term health complications. Long-term uncontrolled blood sugars can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and increased risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and stroke. The risk of these complications is increased if the individual with diabetes smokes, drinks high quantities of alcohol regularly and does not carry out any regular exercise.

Physiotherapy for diabetes

Exercise is an integral part of treatment for diabetes whether you have good control of your blood sugars or whether you are experiencing secondary complications of diabetes. Following a detailed physiotherapy assessment, a treatment plan will be discussed that may include: Regular cardiovascular exercise is essential for those with diabetes as it helps the body to burn glucose and keeps cells healthy. This reduces the risk of the cells becoming resistant to insulin. Your physiotherapists can show how a range of cardiovascular and strengthening exercises at your local gym. A good exercise routine improves muscle strength, fitness, circulation and decreases blood pressure, body fat and the risk of secondary complications such as stroke and heart disease. It will help to improve your control of blood sugars and you will learn how your body responds to exercise. Our physiotherapists are also able to teach you a variety of exercises to do in water. Our hydrotherapy pool has ramp access to enable individuals of all ages and mobility levels to participate in water based exercise therapy within a warm shallow pool.

If you are already experiencing some of the complications of diabetes, our specialist physiotherapists will assess your needs and are able to provide mobility aids and equipment to make tasks easier and safer. We will assess your mobility, vision, sensation, circulation and fitness and focus treatment at an appropriate level. Individuals with diabetes significantly benefit from regular physiotherapy treatment. The benefits of physiotherapy include:
  • Increased knowledge of how to manage your blood sugars in relation to exercise
  • Provision of a home exercise program specifically written for you
  • Increased cardiovascular fitness
  • Increased motivation and participation in regular physical activity
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Increased core stability and balance
  • Increased ability to walk/jog/run/swim
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced risk of secondary complications of diabetes
Our physiotherapists will work alongside your diabetes consultant, specialist nurse, chiropodist and other health professionals involved in the management of your long-term health condition. Our physiotherapist can liaise with them in a professional manner if necessary with your consent. At we work closely with a team of occupational therapists, podiatrists, orthotists and dieticians that can provide useful input into the management of diabetes.

Why for diabetes

At we have a clear understanding of the causes, symptoms and problems related to diabetes. With specialist physiotherapy treatment and advice you can avoid secondary complications and lead a normal fulfilling active life.
  • Treatment at any stage of your diabetes
  • Experienced, knowledgeable physiotherapists
  • Treatment at home, in clinic or the gym
  • Access to specialised gymnasium
  • Access to hydrotherapy
  • No waiting lists
  • Flexible appointment times
Physiotherapy sessions can be held at a location of your choice including one of our clinics, at your home, in the gym or in the hydrotherapy pool. Physiotherapy improves the management of diabetes and reduces the long-term associated health risks. To book an appointment or discuss your diabetic needs with a physiotherapist, please contact us now on 0330 088 7800. Alternatively, you can book an appointment with us online today!

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