What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia). Diabetes occurs when the pancreas loses its ability to produce enough insulin (a type of hormone), or when the body does not respond to insulin action. When blood glucose (sugar) levels increase, after we eat, the pancreas secretes insulin to help body cells convert glucose into energy, or to store it.
In people with Diabetes, instead of the glucose being converted to energy, it remains in the blood, therefore leading to higher than normal blood glucose levels. People with Diabetes have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular (heart-related) diseases because it is often associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and obesity.
There are three main types of Diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes occurs when no insulin is produced, known as insulin-dependent Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes occurs when insulin is ineffective, known as non-insulin-dependent Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) occurs in 2-5% of pregnant women not previously diagnosed with Diabetes. It is often associated with Type 2 Diabetes
Causes of Diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes is caused by the absolute lack of insulin in the body, due to the destruction of the pancreatic cells responsible for insulin secretion. Type 1 Diabetes is the most common cause of childhood diabetes. People with this form of diabetes require daily insulin injection to survive.
- Type 2 Diabetes is marked by decreased levels of insulin or the inability of the body to use insulin properly (known as insulin resistance). The onset of this form of diabetes is usually gradual with symptoms generally appearing after the age of 40. Various risk factors can lead to Type 2 Diabetes including lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet, and obesity. People with Type 2 Diabetes often have a family history of the disease.
- Gestational diabetes occurs in 2-5% of pregnant women who were not previously diagnosed with diabetes. It usually disappears after giving birth, however, it is a marker of increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.
Symptoms of Diabetes:
The most common symptoms of diabetes are:
- Blurry vision
- Constant hunger
- Extreme thirst, even after drinking plenty of water
- Feeling tired or weak constantly
- Frequent urination day and night
- Irritated and itchy skin around the genitals
- Numb hands and feet
- Reduced healing of cuts and wounds
- Weight loss despite normal appetite
Treatments for Diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes treatment includes:
- Daily insulin injection to survive
- Type 2 Diabetes treatment mainly includes lifestyle changes to control blood glucose level:
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet: avoid food high in fats and cholesterol, increase intake of fruits and vegetables, and watch your sugar consumption
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Oral medications may be prescribed by your doctor at the later stage of the disease to help control blood glucose level
Complications of Diabetes & Related Diseases:
- Bacterial and fungal skin infections, as well as gum infections.
- Foot disease such as numbness, blisters, and even gangrene, which may lead to amputation in severe cases.
- Heart and blood vessels diseases such as coronary heart disease and heart attack.
- Kidney disease can occur and may then require dialysis and kidney transplant.
- Nerve disease such as numbness and pain in legs, toes, and fingers, which can lead to complete loss of sensation in affected limbs.
- Osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of bones).
Severe vision complications including cataracts, glaucoma, and eventually blindness.