Diabetes is a term used to refer to a number of diseases that develop due to high levels of blood sugar in the body. The common cause of this occurrence is low or lack of production of insulin by the pancreas. In certain cases, individuals may develop diabetes when their bodies do not respond appropriately to insulin. It is worth pointing out that insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating the conversion of sugar and fats into energy. There are different types of diabetes with the most common being type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
Understanding insulin and its functions
Insulin is a hormone produced by a gland located at the lower back side of the abdomen. The gland is called pancreas. Production of insulin begins immediately the pancreas detects a rise in the level of sugar within the body. This hormone facilitates absorption of sugar into cells which then use it as energy for various functions within the system. When sugar levels in the body reduce production of insulin also goes down.
Type 1 Diabetes
In the past, the condition was referred to as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. The condition occurs when the human body produces little or no insulin from the pancreas. In most cases, the group of people that are affected by this condition is either children or adolescents. However, it is possible for adults to also develop the condition. Research is still ongoing to find a possible cure for this condition.
Once an individual has developed type 1 diabetes he or she may end up experiencing a variety of symptoms with some of the most common being an abnormal increase in thirst and frequent urination. Individuals with the condition may also feel hungry most of the times. Other symptoms include:
1. Bed-wetting by young children who did not have the habit in the past
2. Unexplained loss of body weight within a short time
3. Fatigue and general body weakness
4. Eyesight problems or development of blurred vision
5. Irritability and other types of mood-swings
Causes of type 1 diabetes
Despite multiple pieces of research having been conducted it is not clear what the exact cause of this condition may be. However, there is a general consensus that most cases of type 1 diabetes are a result of the body’s immune system mistakenly destroying insulin-producing cells. Genetics, exposure to certain viruses and environmental factors may also play a role in the development of this condition.
The risk factors
Family history – if a parent or sibling has been diagnosed with this condition it is possible that you may also develop it in the future.
Genetics – researchers believe that people who have certain genes are at a higher risk of developing this condition when compared to those who lack the genes.
Geography – research has shown that individuals are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes as they move away from the equator. Countries that are closer to the equator report lower cases of the condition when compared to those that are located farther away.
Age factor – while just about anyone can develop this condition its first peak is noticeable in children that are aged between 4 to 7 years old. The second peak is common in children aged between 10 and 14 years old.
Individuals that do not receive timely or proper treatment may end up developing several other complications that may become life-threatening.
Nerve damage – Uncontrolled sugar levels in the body can quickly cause damage to the fragile walls of tiny blood vessels responsible for nourishing nerves. If not treated individuals may lose their sense of feeling in the limbs that are affected.
Heart and blood vessel disease – people that have this condition are likely to develop complications that may include heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and narrowing of the arteries.
Nephropathy – this is a condition in which the kidneys get damaged. Worth noting is that the kidneys play an integral role in getting rid of toxins from your body. If they are damaged you may end up needing kidney transplants.
Vision complications – this condition may damage the vessels that lead up to the eyes causing the individual to have eye problems. In some mild cases, the individual may not be able to see properly while severe cases may lead to blindness.
Problems during pregnancy – a pregnant woman supplies just about every need to the unborn baby. A lack of balance in her blood sugar is likely to impact negatively on the unborn baby. This may increase the risks of miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects.
If you notice the development of the symptoms mentioned above it is prudent for you to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. At the health facility, the doctor is likely to record your medical history and carry out the physical examination. To ascertain the condition your doctor may carry out one of the following tests:
Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test – this is a blood test that is done to determine your average blood sugar levels for the past few months.
Random blood sugar test – the doctor may have to take a random blood test which will then be confirmed by taking a repeat test. Random blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) or higher allows the doctor to ascertain that you have diabetes.
Fasting blood sugar test – your doctor may give instructions to the effect that you do not have anything to eat overnight. A blood sample will then be taken in the morning and subjected to analysis. Fasting blood tests that return a result of 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate occasions suggest you have diabetes.
Treatment of type 1 diabetes
Treatment of this condition largely depends on the maintenance of blood sugar levels. As a result, your doctor will give a prescription for insulin administration which you will then be given instructions for use. Insulin can be administered through injections or an insulin pump. To be safe it is prudent for you to follow instructions as closely as possible. Other treatment techniques include:
1. Monitoring of blood sugar levels
2. Consuming select foods that make for an ideal diet
3. Watching your weight so that you do not become obese
4. Engaging in regular exercise to keep the body fit and boost the immune system
Type 2 Diabetes
In the past, it was referred to as adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependant diabetes. This condition occurs when the body is unable to metabolize sugar correctly. The disease may develop if your body is resisting the effects of insulin or when the pancreas does not produce the hormone due to one reason or another. Unlike type 1 diabetes this condition is commonly reported among adults. Type 2 diabetes does not have any cure. However, doctors are able to prescribe certain medications and lifestyle adjustments to ensure that you continue enjoying quality living.
It is possible for individuals to have this condition without realizing it. This is because the symptoms take time before they start showing. Signs and symptoms usually begin with heightened thirst and frequent urination. Because insulin is responsible for absorption of sugar into cells a lack of it causes low energy levels in the body. As a result, your brain will determine that you need more food which is why you are likely to feel hungry most of the times. Other symptoms may include:
Rapid weight loss – since your body is not able to get energy from the primary source which is sugar and fat it will start using alternative sources of energy and this will cause a loss in weight.
Fatigue and body weakness – because your cells do not have the adequate energy you will end up feeling tired most of the times.
Blurred vision – heightened levels of blood sugar can result in draining of the fluids that are present in your eyes. This inevitably leads to poor vision.
Dark patches on the skin – individuals that develop the condition due to a resistance to insulin effects often develop dark patches on the skin around the armpits and neck.
Weakened immune system – individuals that have this condition usually have a weak immune system. That is why they are likely to experience an increase in infections and longer healing times with regards to wounds and sores.
Causes of type 2 diabetes
The condition develops when the human body mistakenly rejects the effects of insulin or the pancreas is unable to produce the hormone. Excess weight and an inactive lifestyle are contributing factors in the development of this condition.
Family history – if a member of the family has this type of diabetes it is possible that any other member may also develop it.
Lack of activity – research shows that this type of diabetes is more common in people that do not practice an active lifestyle. Exercise or activity ensures that the body uses blood sugar properly. It also makes it possible for the body to react positively to the effects of insulin.
Excessive weight – individuals that are overweight are likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Fatty tissues in the body play a huge role in resistance of insulin effects.
Age – individuals that are advanced in age are more likely to develop this type of diabetes as compared to younger citizens. This may be a result of inactivity during old age, weight gain and poor dieting.
People that have this condition must seek immediate medical assistance. However, because the signs and symptoms are often minor in the first stages most people tend to ignore their condition altogether. Without proper treatment a variety of complications may occur with some of the major ones being:
1. Development of Alzheimer’s disease
2. Hearing impairment
3. Kidney damage
4. Eye damage
5. Occurrence of foot and skin conditions
6. Heart diseases
People are advised to report to the nearest health facility for a professional checkup in case they notice the symptoms mentioned above. At the facility a professional doctor will take a medical history, carry out a physical examination and administer any of the following tests:
1. Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test
2. Random blood sugar test
3. Fasting blood sugar test
4. Oral glucose tolerance test
Treatment of type 2 diabetes
Insulin therapy is one of the most common ways of treating individuals that have type 2 diabetes. Other techniques may involve proper dieting, regular exercise, and monitoring of blood sugar levels.
This is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. The condition may have a negative impact on both the mother and her unborn baby which is why it must be treated as soon as it is detected. This type of diabetes hardly ever registers signs and symptoms making it necessary for pregnant women to pay regular visits to medical facilities for screening.
Age – women that get pregnant at the age of 25 or above are at a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Family history – individuals that come from families with a member who has developed type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk of getting gestational diabetes.
Excessive weight – pregnant women that are overweight are more likely to develop this condition when compared to pregnant women that fall within healthy weight ranges.
Prevention of all types of diabetes
Prevention of all types of diabetes can be done using standard techniques meant to promote healthy living.
Healthy eating – consuming a balanced diet is key to preventing any form of diabetes. With the right nutrients in your body, your immune system will be strengthened.
Regular exercise – engaging in regular exercise allows your body to process blood sugar in the right way. It also gets rid of unhealthy fats that may put your health at risk.
Loss of extra fats – if you are overweight it is advisable that you get into a program that can help you lose some pounds.