What is diabetes?
Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to properly use and store glucose. Glucose backs up in the bloodstream — causing one’s blood glucose (sometimes referred to as blood sugar) to rise too high.
Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is predicted by a clear set of symptoms, but it still often goes undiagnosed.
Diabetes symptoms include:
- Urinating often
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss – even though you are eating more (type 1)
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)
Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes.
In some cases, there are no symptoms — this happens at times with type 2 diabetes. In this case, people can live even for years without knowing they have the disease. This form of diabetes comes on so gradually that symptoms may not even be recognized.
What are the types of diabetes?
Type 1 (10% of cases) Also known as “insulin dependent” or “juvenile diabetes”, this variation results from the body’s failure to produce insulin. Patients are required to inject insulin daily or wear an insulin pump in order to manage the disease.
Type 2 (about 90% of cases) Also known as “Adult-onset Diabetes” is considerably more common and typically affects people over the age of 45, who are also overweight, results from insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute insulin deficiency. Disease management requires daily monitoring of blood glucose levels. The condition can deteriorate requiring daily insulin injections or an insulin pump.
Gestational diabetes During pregnancy (usually around the 24th week) many women develop gestational diabetes. It occurs in 3-5% of all pregnancies (in other words, 1 in 20 pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes).
Who gets diabetes?
Diabetes can occur in anyone. This disease affects all ages, genders and races. In 2013, 382 million people (8.3% of the population) were suffering with diabetes globally. However, people who have close relatives with the disease are somewhat more likely to develop it.
Other risk factors include obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity. The risk of developing diabetes also increases as people grow older. People who are over 40 and overweight are more likely to develop diabetes, although the incidence of type 2 diabetes in adolescents is growing. Also, people who develop diabetes while pregnant are more likely to develop full-blown diabetes later in life.
How to treat diabetes?
Diabetes is a common disease, yet every individual needs unique care. There are certain things that everyone who has diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, needs to do to be healthy. People with diabetes and their families should learn as much as possible about the latest medical therapies and approaches, as well as healthy lifestyle choices.
First of all people with diabetes need to learn how to monitor their blood glucose. Daily testing will help determine how well their meal plan, activity plan, and medications are working to keep blood glucose levels in a normal range.
People with type 1 diabetes, and some people with type 2 diabetes, also need to take insulin injections. Some people with type 2 diabetes take pills called “oral agents” which help their bodies produce more insulin and/or use the insulin it is producing better. Some people with type 2 diabetes can manage their disease without medication by appropriate meal planning and adequate physical activity.
Everyone who has diabetes should be seen at regular basis a diabetes specialist (an endocrinologist or a diabetologist) and should have regular eye exams (once a year) by an eye doctor expert in diabetes eye care.
Diabetes is a serious disease that you cannot treat on your own – that is why people with diabetes need a healthcare professional to help them to make a diabetes treatment plan (medication; exercise and meal plan) that is right for them. Good communication with a team of experts can help diabetics to feel in control and respond to changing needs.
What are the complications of diabetes?
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a number of short and long-term health complications, the majority of these diabetes-related conditions occur as a result of uncontrolled blood glucose levels, particularly elevated blood sugar over a prolonged period of time.
- Diabetic cardiomyopathy, damage to the heart, leading to diastolic dysfunction and eventually heart failure.
- Diabetic nephropathy, damage to the kidneys, which can lead to chronic renal failure, eventually requiring dialysis.
- Diabetic neuropathy, abnormal and decreased sensation which, when combined with damaged blood vessels can lead to diabetic foot, in some cases requiring amputation.
- Diabetic retinopathy, severe vision loss or blindness.
It is essential that diabetics are aware of the complications that can occur as a result of diabetes to ensure that the first symptoms of any possible illness are spotted before they develop.
How to prevent diabetes?
Unfortunately type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. But up to 58 per cent of cases of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented by making simple changes in our everyday lives. Modest weight loss (5-10% of body weight) and modest physical activity (30 minutes a day) are recommended goals – so it all can be boiled down to five words: Eat better and move more.