What is Diabetes ?

With diabetes being such an epidemic today, it is essential that you know exactly what it is.

So what is Diabetes ?

In layman terms, “diabetes” is the inability of the body to process sugars in a proper manner. When we eat or drink, our “pancreas” produces a hormone called “insulin”.

Diabetes Mellitus (DM)  is a disease in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone that helps the body’s tissues absorb glucose (sugar) so it can be used as a source of energy. The condition may also develop if muscle, fat, and liver cells respond poorly to insulin. Glucose levels build up in the blood and urine, causing excessive urination, thirst, hunger, and problems with fat and protein metabolism.

What are the different types of DM? 

Insulin is released into the blood and helps to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. DM is a condition where this process does not function correctly. The reason why DM occurs is that no insulin is being produced (often called Type 1 DM) and requires the sufferer to use insulin injections, or insulin is produced but the body becomes resistant to it. This renders the insulin ineffective. This is normally called Type 2 DM and is rapidly becoming more common.

There are three types: Type 1, Type 2, Gestational diabetes.

  • Type 1 DM

This type of  DM has also been called insulin-dependent and immune-mediated diabetes. It occurs when your body can’t produce insulin. The immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This type of DM is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and was previously known as juvenile DM.

Type 1 DM increases the risk of other serious complications such as heart disease, nerve damage, blindness, and kidney damage. Some of the symptoms include increased thirst, increased urination, weight loss even with increased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, and absence of menstruation.

  • Type 2 DM

Type 2 DM is the most common type that fails to be diagnosed. It progresses slowly and causes symptoms such as skin infections, poor healing, kidney problems, and vision problems. It is ordinary that neither these complications nor DM are diagnosed after years of mild symptoms. The problem is usually that people have no severe symptoms and do not seek medical care at all. They just think of the symptoms as simply getting older. For this reason, it is important to get regularly tested for DM in the most common age group (over 40’s). Less commonly a doctor may treat other diseases, without realizing to test for DM.

  • Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs during a woman’s pregnancy. Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but have high blood sugar levels during pregnancy are said to have it. It affects 4 percent of all women during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes can be missed in pregnancy. It usually starts with mild symptoms that often can be attributed to other things. It’s important to get tested during pregnancy because the high blood sugars from gestational diabetes can do harm to the baby and sometimes lead to other complications. Even if you’re not pregnant, you should make it a priority to get tested. Many women have gestational diabetes and think about their symptoms as being usual during pregnancy. You never know, maybe it is, but it’s always a good idea to get tested. If you’re having any of the symptoms of diabetes, it’s important to see your doctor. Even if you think it’s absolutely nothing. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

In summary, there are two types of diabetes other than Gestational diabetes( associated with pregnancy).  In type 1 DM, which usually starts in childhood, the pancreas stops making insulin altogether. It is also called insulin-dependent DM. In type 2 DM, which starts in adulthood (and in some teenagers) the body still makes some insulin. But it doesn’t make enough insulin, or the body can’t use it properly. It is also called non-insulin-dependent DM.

Diabetes mellitus differs from the less common diabetes insipidus, which is caused by a lack of the hormone vasopressin that controls the amount of urine secreted.

How does Diabetes affect the body? 

The danger is that while diabetes is not immediately life-threatening, the long term effects of high blood sugar can be very damaging. Uncontrolled diabetes and prolonged high blood sugar levels can, in later life, cause problems to many organs including the kidneys, eyes, nerves and the heart.

Controlling blood sugar by a combination of medicine, diet, and exercise will vastly reduce the long term complications. Recent research shows that 2 in every 100 people have diabetes. Alarmingly half of these people do not even know they have it. Many people have diabetes without being aware of it because someone with diabetes looks no different from anyone else and the onset of symptoms can be very vague.

How do you find out if you have diabetes?

The simplest way to check if you have Diabetes is to arrange a blood sugar check with your doctor. A tiny sample of blood, obtained by pricking a finger is checked using a small electronic tester. DM is detected by measuring the amount of glucose in the blood after an individual has fasted (abstained from food) for about eight hours. In some cases, physicians diagnose diabetes by administering an oral glucose tolerance test, which measures glucose levels before and after a specific amount of sugar has been ingested.

A normal blood sugar level is generally between 72 – 126 mg/dl or 4 – 7 mmol/l (where 1 mmol/l = 18mg/dl). If the body is unable to keep the blood sugar level within these limits, then diabetes is diagnosed. Diagnosis of diabetes can occur out of the blue during a routine check-up but more often it follows when the symptoms of diabetes begin to appear. These symptoms can be many or few, mild or severe depending on the individual.

Another test being developed for Type 1 DM looks for specific antibodies (proteins of the immune system that attack foreign substances) present only in persons with diabetes. This test may detect Type 1 DM an early stage, reducing the risk of complications from the disease.

What are some common signs and symptoms of Diabetes? 

Symptoms include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss in spite of increased appetite fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Frequent infections  including those of the bladder, vagina, and skin
  • Blurred vision.

What are the risk factors associated with Diabetes? 

Certain factors contribute to the development of diabetes.

  • Heredity

Heredity is a major factor. That diabetes can be inherited has been known for centuries. However, the pattern of inheritance is not fully understood. Statistics indicate that those with a family history of the disease have a higher risk of developing diabetes than those without such a background. The risk factor is 25 to 33 percent more.

One reason why diabetes, especially type-2 diabetes runs in families is because of the diabetes gene. But even if it is caused by genetic factors beyond your control; there is no reason to suffer from it. Diabetes mellitus cannot be cured in full sense of the term, but it can be effectively controlled so that you can live a long healthy life.

  • Diet

Diabetes has been described by most medical scientists as a prosperity’ disease, primarily caused by systematic overeating. Not only is eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates harmful but proteins and fats, which are transformed into sugar, may also result in diabetes if taken in excess.

It is interesting to note that diabetes is almost unknown in countries where people are poor and cannot afford to overeat.

The incidence of diabetes is directly linked with the consumption of processed foods rich in refined carbohydrates, like biscuits, bread, cakes chocolates, pudding and ice creams.

  • Obesity

Obesity is one of the main causes of diabetes. Studies show that 60 to 85 % of diabetics tend to be overweight. In the United States of America, about 80 percent of type –2 non-insulin dependent diabetics are reported to be overweight.

Excess fat prevents insulin from working properly. The more fatty tissue in the body, the more resistant the muscle and tissue cells become to body insulin. Insulin allows the sugar in the blood to enter the cells by acting on the receptor sites on the surface of the cells.

Older people often tend to gain weight, and at the same time, many of them develop and a mild form of diabetes because those who are over weight can often improve their blood sugar simply by losing weight.

  • Stress and Tension

There is a known connection between stress and DM, those who are under stress and/or lead an irregular lifestyle, need to take adequate precautions and make necessary lifestyle adjustments.

Grief, worry, and anxiety resulting from examinations, death of a close relative, loss of a joy, business failure and strained marital relationship, all a deep influence on the metabolism and may cause sugar to appear in the urine.

  • Smoking

Smoking is another important risk factor. Among men who smoke, the risk of developing diabetes is doubled. In women who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day, the risk of developing diabetes is increased by 40 percent.

  • Lifestyle 

People who are less active have a greater risk of developing diabetes. Modern conveniences have made work easier. Physical activity and exercise helps control weight, uses up a lot of glucose (sugar) present in the blood as energy and makes cells more sensitive to insulin. Consequently, the workload on the pancreas is reduced.

What are the Risk Factors For Diabetes?

Diabetes is most common in adults over 45 years of age; in people who are overweight or physically inactive; in individuals who have an immediate family member with diabetes; and in people of African, Hispanic, and Native American descent. The highest rate of diabetes in the world occurs in Native Americans. More women than men have been diagnosed with the disease.

How is Diabetes Managed? 

Once diabetes is diagnosed, treatment consists of controlling the amount of glucose in the blood and preventing complications. Depending on the type of DM, this can be accomplished through regular physical exercise, a carefully controlled diet, and medication.

Almost one-third of all people with DM don’t know they have it. The symptoms seem so harmless, like symptoms of just getting older or being always tired. In this article, we will list the different types of diabetes and some of the common symptoms of each to help you understand diabetes a little better.

Individuals with Type 1 DM require insulin injections, often two to four times a day, to provide the body with the insulin it does not produce. The amount of insulin needed varies from person to person and may be influenced by factors such as a person’s level of physical activity, diet, and the presence of other health disorders.

Typically, individuals with Type 1 diabetes use a meter several times a day to measure the level of glucose in a drop of their blood obtained by pricking a fingertip. They can then adjust the amount of insulin injected, physical exercise, or food intake to maintain blood sugar at a normal level. People with Type 1 diabetes must carefully control their diets by distributing meals and snacks throughout the day; so as not to overwhelm the ability of the insulin supply to help cells absorb glucose. They also need to eat foods that contain complex sugars, which break down slowly and cause a slower rise in blood sugar levels.

For persons with Type 2 DM, treatment begins with diet control, exercise, and weight reduction, although over time this treatment may not be adequate. People with Type 2 diabetes typically work with nutritionists to formulate a diet plan that regulates blood sugar levels so that they do not rise too swiftly after a meal.

A recommended meal is usually low in fat (30 percent or less of total calories), provides moderate protein (10 to 20 percent of total calories), and contains a variety of carbohydrates, such as beans, vegetables, and grains. Regular exercise helps body cells absorb glucose—even ten minutes of exercise a day can be effective. Diet control and exercise may also play a role in weight reduction, which appears to partially reverse the body’s inability to use insulin.



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