Diabetes mellitus is a serious condition where the body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose, or blood sugar, is the body’s main source of energy. Insulin is a vital hormone found in the pancreas, allowing glucose to be transferred into the cells in the body, providing energy. In people with diabetes, insulin is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body.
Unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood can lead to both long- and short term health complications, and people with diabetes are at a higher risk of suffering from heart and kidney disease, stroke, limb amputation caused by nerve damage, depression, anxiety and blindness.
There are three main forms of diabetes, types 1, 2 ,and gestational diabetes.
The most common symptoms of diabetes are the feeling of thirst, passing urine frequently and fatigue. The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are often sudden and dramatic, while one of the biggest challenges with type 2 diabetes is that there are often no symptoms, resulting in a delay in diagnosis, by which time various other complications may also be present.
Diabetes may be present if you experience the following:
There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where the pancreas is attacked by auto-antibodies - antibodies that mistakenly target and damage specific tissues or organs of the body - causing it to fail. Type 1 diabetes usually develops before adulthood and remains with them throughout their life, requiring insulin treatment.
On the other hand,
type 2 diabetes is mainly brought on by an unhealthy, inactive lifestyle and weight gain. It is associated with decreasing levels of activity and an increasing prevalence of obesity. In this type of diabetes, there is insulin in the body, but the body becomes resistant to it so the insulin becomes largely ineffective.
Obesity is known to increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in adulthood, and with the rise in childhood obesity in recent years, more children are developing Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, managed and even reversed by eating a healthy, balanced diet, keeping a normal weight and exercising regularly.
The main differences between type 1 and type 2 are listed in the table, below.
|Type 1 (insulin dependent)||Type 2 (insulin resistant)|
|Epidemiology||Usually younger and lean||Mostly older and overweight|
|Genetic||No general genetic predisposition||Genetic pre-disposition|
|Pathogenesis||Autoimmunity||No evidence of autoimmunity|
|Clinical||Insulin deficiency - always needs insulin||Insulin resistance AND not enough insulin (even though insulin level may be high)|
It is important that people keep an eye on their physical condition and be aware of the early symptoms of diabetes. Some symptoms can be a clear ‘high-risk’ and the aim is to decrease the chance of developing further complications. By having some understanding of the early symptoms of diabetes, people are better prepared to manage these situations.
During pregnancy, some women develop higher than normal levels of glucose in their blood, which insulin can't bring under control; this is called gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually develops in the third trimester (after 28 weeks) and usually disappears after the baby is born. However, women who develop gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life and also more likely to have a recurrence of the condition at subsequent pregnancies. Gestational diabetes often doesn't cause any symptoms, so it’s important to have a glucose-screening test between 24 and 28 weeks, but women at high risk should be screened early in pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise. However, some women will need medication to keep their blood glucose levels under control. Women who had had gestational diabetes should have a test to check blood glucose levels about 6–8 weeks after the baby is born.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has stated that up to 58 percent of type 2 diabetes is preventable by adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity.
The key to the prevention of type 2 diabetes is to maintain a normal body weight and to exercise regularly. Regular exercise is about more than just weight loss, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by the uptake of regular, moderate exercise and a balanced diet.
Early detection of pre-diabetes can lead to the prevention of diabetes, and the implementation of lifestyle changes can greatly reduce the risk of related complications, including blindness, heart attack and stroke.
Good health maintenance is as simple and as smart as managing a balanced diet and taking some moderate, regular exercise.