Diabetes or diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that develops when the body does not produce insulin or is not able to make proper use of the available insulin. This condition leads to an increase in the blood glucose levels. Glucose, which is obtained from the foods we eat, is the major source of energy for our body. It is transferred in to the blood stream from where it is absorbed by the cells in our body to produce the energy that we need. Glucose is carried to the cells by the hormone insulin, produced by the beta cells in the pancreas. In the case of diabetic patients, this process is impaired because the pancreas fails to make sufficient insulin or the insulin available in the body is not able to carry the glucose to the cells. As the glucose does not reach the cells, it starts to pile up in the blood.
Types of diabetes
Diabetes exists in three different forms such as
- Type 1 diabetes – This type, which accounts for 10 % of the diabetic cases, can occur in people at any age, but is most commonly seen in children and young adults. Although the exact cause of this disease is yet to be found, genetics and environmental factors are considered to be possible triggers. Type 1 diabetes, being an autoimmune disease is characterized by the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin due to the destruction of the insulin producing beta cells. This disease cannot be prevented and is not triggered by factors like obesity, diet and exercise.
- Type 2 diabetes – This is the most common type of diabetes that accounts for nearly 90% of all diabetes cases in the United States. Type 2 diabetes is generally seen in adults and is mainly caused by a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and the intake of unhealthy junk foods. A person having type 2 diabetes is either unable to produce insulin or experiences insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the condition where the body does produce insulin, but this insulin cannot be used efficiently by the cells.
- Gestational diabetes – This type of diabetes occur only in pregnant women. Gestational diabetes is caused by the pregnancy hormones that interfere with the effective functioning of insulin, resulting in high blood glucose levels. It is likely that women having gestational diabetes give birth to larger babies.
Symptoms of diabetes
The symptoms associated with diabetes are usually mild and hence are often overlooked. Most of the time, early detection and treatment of the condition fail, resulting in serious life-long complications. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of diabetes to detect the symptoms at the early stage itself. The symptoms of diabetes to look out for are
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Increased hunger
- Unexpected weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing wounds
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the hands and feet
- Frequent skin infections
- Erectile dysfunction
The symptoms of diabetes type 1 may occur rapidly. But it may take years to detect the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
Diagnosis of diabetes
The diagnosis of diabetes can be done with the help of a blood test that measures the level of blood sugar. Confirmation of the diagnosis is done by repeating the test on another day.
Treatment of diabetes
Although there are several ways to treat diabetes, a solution that offers a complete cure is yet to be developed. The various treatment methods available mostly aim at controlling the blood sugar level so that further complications can be avoided. Given below are the treatment options available for the different types of diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes treatment – Since the body does not produce insulin in type 1 diabetics, the treatment involves insulin injections to replace the missing insulin. Proper food intake and exercise is also required, but due to the insulin intake, it should be done as per the physician’s recommendations.
- Type 2 diabetes treatment – The treatment of type 2 diabetes varies with the level of glucose in the blood. Since obesity, sedentary life style and lack of exercise are causative factors of this disease, it is important to control weight, change your lifestyle, exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet in order to manage this type of diabetes. You will also need to test your blood to check the levels of glucose. The treatment may sometimes require medications or insulin.
- Gestational diabetes treatment – The treatment of gestational diabetes mainly involves monitoring the blood glucose level, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, regular physical activity and medications. Ultrasound or other tests are performed to check the health of the baby, throughout the pregnancy.
Diabetes, if left untreated can lead to several complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetic coma, blindness, nerve damage and lower extremity amputations. It is important for people to be aware of the complication of this disease, so that possible measures can be taken to avoid them. The good news is that by striving to get the blood sugar level under control, diabetes can be managed and people suffering from diabetes can lead a normal life.