Sugar Matters
February 20, 2009
Diabetes and your lungs

As we continue our journey through your body, we now stop in your lungs. As you know, your lungs are well protected behind your ribs. During every second they do the amazing job of getting oxygen out of the air you breathe in, and then sending out carbon dioxide that you do not need.{{more}} Similar to your heartbeat, most people do not pay much attention to their breathing unless something is wrong

There is some research that shows high blood sugars can affect the way the lungs work in general. Given the necessity of this organ system, you can see right away why decreasing function would be a problem. But the main way that diabetes affects your lungs is through infections. When your blood sugars are out of control, bacteria are more likely to set up shop in your body, including the lungs. Now unless you plan on living in a bubble, it is impossible to avoid ALL infectious germs and viruses. But there are ways to reduce the chances of picking them up, and controlling your diabetes will help lessen the chances of a severe infection.

For instance, people with poorly controlled diabetes are more likely to develop pneumonia AND are more likely to die from it compared to people without diabetes. Pneumonias in diabetics tend to be much more severe and difficult to cure. To make it worse, when you are sick often blood sugars increase further, adding to a bad cycle of high blood sugars making it tough for you to recover. This happens not only with pneumonia, but also with less severe lung infections – what we call “a cold”. Often an illness that we refer to as “the flu” isn’t really the flu, but instead a very bad cold.

The best way to prevent severe infections includes three steps:

1) Get vaccinated. EVERYONE with diabetes, unless there is some major issue like an allergy, should be vaccinated against pneumonia. The vaccine does not prevent all types of pneumonia but it does protect against one of the most wicked types, and that is value enough. Get your flu shot every year. Yes, I know, some people continue to think the flu vaccine makes you sick… That is extremely unlikely. Plus, given the fact that the true flu virus kills people every year, you should have this vaccine at the top of your list as prevention.

2) Control those blood sugars. Don’t forget: high sugars are great for bacteria. Plus it makes it more difficult to kick the bug from your system. Don’t make the bacteria feel welcome by sweetening yourself. They are like bad house guests: they come when you least expect them and they STAY and STAY, making life miserable…

3) Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands.

Take a deep breath now and appreciate the power of your lungs, working quietly there behind your chest wall. Take good care of them and they will take care of you in return.

Until next week, stay safe and healthy, Vincies!

Anita Ramsetty,
MD [email protected]
Medical Director Endocrine Care Group
Tel: 843-798-4227