Diabetes mellitus is the name for a group of disorders characterized by high blood sugar levels. It is a condition where the body is unable to utilize and store glucose.
Diabetes is the oldest and the most prevalent disease known to mankind and is more common in middle aged and elderly. However, children and adults are also prone to diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease of metabolism, the process of breaking down of food into energy. The food we eat is converted into glucose, which is the source of energy for the body. Glucose is carried to cells through blood, where it is absorbed with the help of the hormone insulin. The pancreas is supposed to automatically produce the right amount of insulin to move the glucose from the blood into the cells.
In people with diabetes, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the body cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. In the absence of insulin, glucose gets accumulated in the blood instead of getting into the cells. The body cannot maintain the blood glucose level within normal limits (3.5 – 8.0 mmol/L).
Blood glucose up to 15 mmol/L may go unnoticed but if the level of blood sugar rises above that, the following symptoms are seen:
Without getting glucose, the body cells starve of energy and fail to carry out the vital functions. It is at this point the symptoms of diabetes become evident. Cell by cell, diabetes slowly affects every organ of the body if left untreated.
Signs of Diabetes
People with diabetes frequently experience the above symptoms.
In some cases, there may not be any symptoms. This happens at times with type 2 diabetes, where people can live for months or even years without knowing they have the disease. This form of diabetes develops so gradually that symptoms may not even be recognized.
There are two major types of diabetes:
Type 1: Also called Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM), it is the more severe form of diabetes. Here the person’s pancreas produces little or no insulin. Onset is sudden, often with serious symptoms. People with type 1 diabetes always need insulin therapy, transplantation of pancreatic tissue is used in some cases. Type 1 diabetes generally occurs during childhood.
Type 2: Non-insulin Dependent Diabetes mellitus or type 2 diabetes is more common. In this condition, body’s insulin production may or may not be low but the body’s cells resist insulin’s sugar-regulating effects. Onset is more gradual and people with type 2 diabetes often have no signs or symptoms for many years, leading to diabetic complications. Type 2 diabetes most often occurs in older adults and is strongly associated with obesity.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes appears gradually and are not as noticeable as in type 1 diabetes. Symptoms include feeling tired or ill, frequent urination (especially at night), unusual thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections, and slow healing of sores.
Both type 1, and type 2 diabetes are serious and can result in a variety of complications. Both can be controlled, and neither can be cured.
Gestational diabetes develops or is discovered during pregnancy. Normally gestational diabetes disappears after the pregnancy, but women who have had gestational diabetes have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in their lives.
Diabetes can be controlled by combining proper diet, exercise and when required, insulin injections and oral medications. Since there is no cure for diabetes at present, good control of diabetes is very important. Maintaining blood glucose and fat will help the diabetic lead a normal life.
Research has shown that good control of blood glucose levels prevents or decreases the risk of complications such as:
The three keys to managing your diabetics are: diet, exercise, and medication.
Whether type 1 or type 2, diabetics need to have a diet plan. One has to pay attention to exercise, because exercise can help the body use insulin better to convert glucose into energy in cells. Those with type 1 diabetes, and certain people with type 2 diabetes, need to take insulin injections. Majority of the type 2 diabetics take pills called “oral agents” that help produce more insulin and enhance its usage. Some of the type 2 diabetics can manage their disease with weight loss, diet and exercise alone and don’t need any medication.
Are you prone to diabetes?
Diabetes is not contagious but is hereditary. People who have family members with diabetes (especially type 2 diabetes ) and who are obese are at greater risk of developing diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes occurs equally in both the genders. Type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, especially older women who are overweight.
The risk of developing diabetes increases as people grow older. Women who have had gestational diabetes are more likely to develop full-blown diabetes later in life.
If left untreated, diabetes can lead to blindness, stroke, kidney failure, heart attack and amputations. However, when detected early and treated correctly, diabetes can be controlled.
The following questions may help determine whether you are at higher risk for diabetes mellitus:
If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, ask your doctor if you should be checked for diabetes.
Why is diabetes not easily diagnosed?
The symptoms of diabetes can be subtle and easily overlooked or explained away. Often, diabetes will progress and manifest itself in other life threatening illnesses such as heart disease, neuropathy or kidney failure.
Early diagnosis can save your life. With proper treatment diabetes can be controlled and complications avoided or delayed. Everyone should be aware of this disease and it’s symptoms, as it is much more common than we ever thought in past years.
Too-high levels of glucose in the blood over many years can hurt your organs. Diabetes can damage eyes, kidneys and nerves. It also makes heart and blood vessel disease more likely. The best defense against complications is taking good care of your diabetes. Keeping your glucose levels in control will make you feel better and it will help you stay healthy in the long run.
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