What is diabetes?
Diabetes happens when your body isn’t able to take up sugar (glucose) into its cells and use it for energy. This results in a build up of extra sugar in your bloodstream. Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to serious consequences, causing damage to a wide range of your body’s organs and tissues – including your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
The types of diabetes are:
- Type 1 diabetes: This type is an autoimmune disease, meaning your body attacks itself. In this case, the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas are destroyed. Up to 10% of people who have diabetes have Type 1. It’s usually diagnosed in children and young adults (but can develop at any age). It was once better known as “juvenile” diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day. This is why it is also called insulin-dependent diabetes.
- Type 2 diabetes: With this type, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or your body’s cells don’t respond normally to the insulin. This is the most common type of diabetes. Up to 95% of people with diabetes have Type 2. It usually occurs in middle-aged and older people. Other common names for Type 2 include adult-onset diabetes and insulin-resistant diabetes.
- Prediabetes: This type is the stage before Type 2 diabetes. Your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be officially diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes: This type develops in some women during their pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy. However, if you have gestational diabetes you’re at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later on in life.
Less common types of diabetes include;
- Monogenic diabetes syndrome
- Cystic fibrosis related diabetes
- Drug or chemical induced diabetes
How common is diabetes?
There is a globally agreed target to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025. About 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, the majority living in low-and middle-income countries, and 1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year.
Who gets diabetes? What are the risk factors?
Factors that increase your risk differ depending on the type of diabetes you ultimately develop.
Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes include:
- Having a family history (parent or sibling) of Type 1 diabetes.
- Injury to the pancreas (such as by infection, tumor, surgery or accident).
- Presence of autoantibodies (antibodies that mistakenly attack your own body’s tissues or organs).
- Physical stress (such as surgery or illness).
- Exposure to illnesses caused by viruses.
Risk factors for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes include: Family history (parent or sibling) of prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
- Being Black.
- Having overweight/obesity.
- Having high blood pressure.
- Having low HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and high triglyceride level.
- Being physically inactive.
- Being age 45 or older. Having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Having a history of heart disease or stroke.
- Being a smoker.
Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
- Family history (parent or sibling) of prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
- Being African.
- Having overweight/obesity before your pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Symptoms of diabetes include:
- Increased thirst.
- Weak, tired feeling.
- Blurred vision.
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
- Slow-healing sores or cuts.
- Unplanned weight loss.
- Frequent urination.
- Frequent unexplained infections.
- Dry mouth.
- In women: Dry and itchy skin, and frequent yeast infections or urinary tract infections.
- In men: Decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle strength.
What are the complications of diabetes?
If your blood glucose level remains high over a long period of time, your body’s tissues and organs can be seriously damaged. Some complications can be life-threatening over time. These complications include :-
- Cardiovascular issues including coronary artery disease, chest pain, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).
- Nerve damage (neuropathy) that causes numbing and tingling that starts at toes or fingers then spreads.
- Kidney damage (nephropathy) that can lead to kidney failure or the need for dialysis or transplant.
- Eye damage (retinopathy) that can lead to blindness; cataracts, glaucoma.
- Foot damage including nerve damage, poor blood flow and poor healing of cuts and sores.
- Skin infections.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Hearing loss.
- Dental problems.
- In a mother: Preeclampsia (high blood pressure, excess protein in urine, leg/feet swelling), risk of gestational diabetes during future pregnancies and risk of diabetes later in life.
- In the newborn: Higher-than-normal birth weight, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes over time and death shortly after birth.
HOW IS DIABETES DIAGNOSED?
There are tests that can measure you blood glucose level such as:
Fasting plasma glucose test, Random plasma glucose test, Oral glucose tolerance test.
With the raising increase in the rate of diabetes, checking your blood glucose level is important because the results help guide decisions about what to eat, your physical activity and any needed medication and insulin adjustments or additions. There’s much you can do to prevent the development of diabetes (except Type 1 diabetes). However, if you or your child or adolescent develop symptoms of diabetes, see your healthcare provider. The earlier diabetes is diagnosed, the sooner steps can be taken to treat and control it. The better you are able to control your blood sugar level, the more likely you are to live a long, healthy life.
By Endocrinology Team at LECC:
- Diet and Nutritionist