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Nurses: What Your Patients Need to Know About Diabetes

In 2017, the CDC reported that more than 100 million adults in the United States were living with diabetes or prediabetes. With 30.3 million people living with diabetes and 84.1 million with prediabetes in 2019, it is evident that the incidence of diabetes is on the rise. The uptick in Type 2 diabetes is often attributed to the standard American diet of processed foods, compounded by a lack of exercise.

The American Diabetes Association lists the condition as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2015. It’s possible to reduce diabetes risk through nutrition and lifestyle changes, and manage the condition with these changes and appropriate medications.

Diabetes: It’s Complicated

Diabetes is a chronic health condition in which the blood contains too much sugar. The pancreas should create enough insulin to allow glucose to supply those cells with energy. People with diabetes have issues making or using their own insulin.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, requires close monitoring of blood sugar levels and insulin injections to maintain safe levels. Type 2 was once called adult onset diabetes, and it is often managed through diet and exercise. Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar is high but not yet at the level for a full diabetes diagnosis.

Diabetes can damage several systems of the body. Medical News Today notes that high glucose leads to narrowing of the blood vessels, increasing risk for high blood pressure. Hypertension, heart disease and stroke are additional comorbidities.

Diabetes also affects the kidneys. Narrowing blood vessels make it difficult for kidneys to perform their filtering duties. Permanent kidney damage may require dialysis.

Nerve damage is also common in people with diabetes. When nerve damage occurs in the feet, wounds may not be easily noticed. Poor circulation plus infection equals potential death of tissue, which can necessitate amputation.

These comorbidities are scary, which is why medical communities are so invested in educating patients on diabetes prevention and management. Patients with diabetes must understand treatment of their condition to reduce risk of comorbidities worsening.

Breakthroughs in Diabetes Treatment

Many advancements have occurred in diabetes treatment. To this end, nurses need to keep abreast of breakthroughs with an eye to greater compliance and better patient outcomes.

While many still use finger pricks to monitor blood sugar, there is now technology to allow for continuous glucose monitoring (CGM). Pharmacy Times mentions FDA-approved MiniMed 670G acting as a surrogate pancreas, monitoring glucose and balancing insulin. FreeStyle Libre Flash is a CGM device that eliminates the need for finger sticks and uses a reader to scan blood sugar levels. Guardian Connect also involves a sensor applied to the body, using Bluetooth technology to send glucose readings to a cell phone app.

There are also many medications on the market to help manage diabetes. In late 2019, Jamie Dillinger, CRNP, reported to that there were thirteen different categories of medications for diabetes. Each category has four to five drugs, so there are many treatment options.

With so many developments and efforts to make diabetes even more manageable, one might consider specializing in diabetes care.

Become a Certified Diabetes Educator

A Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) is credentialed for proficiency and experience in diabetic care. This expert is knowledgeable in diabetes prevention and treatment, educating patients on optimal diet and lifestyle habits, medications and diabetic technology.

The Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education (CBCDE) handles certification for CDEs. One must have appropriate and current licensure, such as an unrestricted registered nurse license or certification from another health field. After the discipline requirement is met, at least two years of professional practice and 1,000 hours providing diabetes education is necessary. Before paying the application fee and taking the exam, one must also complete 15 hours of continuing education related to diabetes.

Becoming a CDE expands one’s career opportunities, especially with the increasing numbers of patients with diabetes. This population needs educators to help manage their condition. As a nurse, you’ve already taken the first step toward your CDE credential by earning your RN license.

Eastern Illinois University’s Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) online expands your knowledge of patient diagnosis and treatment. With the latest evidence-based techniques under your belt, your assessment and recommendations for patients with diabetes may improve their condition and overall health.

Learn more about EIU’s online RN to BSN program.


 CDC: New CDC Report: More Than 100 Million Americans Have Diabetes or Prediabetes

CDC: A Snapshot: Diabetes in the United States

American Diabetes Association: Statistics About Diabetes

Medical News Today: Effects of Diabetes on the Body and Organs

Pharmacy Times: Recent Advances in the Management of Diabetes Diabetes Education: Do You Know Everything Patients Need You to Know?

CBCDE: Eligibility Requirements

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