What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1, in which the body does not produce insulin, and Type 2, in which the body does not effectively use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Diabetes can lead to serious health complications, such as heart disease, kidney damage, blindness, and amputations. It is a leading cause of death globally.
There are several types but the most common are Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes: Also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, it is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. This type typically develops in childhood or adolescence and is treated with insulin injections or an insulin pump.
- Type 2 diabetes: Also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes, it is the most common form. It is characterized by the body’s inability to effectively use insulin, which leads to high blood sugar levels. This type of diabetes typically develops in adulthood, and is often linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. It can be treated with lifestyle changes, oral medications, or insulin injections.
- Gestational diabetes: This type of diabetes develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth. It is caused by hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. It is treated with a combination of diet and exercise, and sometimes insulin injections if needed.
Other types of diabetes include:
LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults), MODY (Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young), Neonatal Diabetes, Secondary diabetes, and drug-induced diabetes.
Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. It is considered as a “pre-diabetic” state and it’s often a warning sign that a person is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes have a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Prediabetes is typically diagnosed through a blood test called the A1C test, which measures a person’s average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. A person is considered to have prediabetes if their A1C test result is between 5.7% and 6.4%.
Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise, can often help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in people with prediabetes. Medications may also be prescribed by a diabetologist, if needed.
It’s important to note that some individuals with prediabetes may not have any symptoms, and it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for regular checkups and screenings.
The symptoms of diabetes can vary depending on the type and stage of the disease, but some common symptoms include:
- Frequent urination: High blood sugar levels can cause the body to flush out excess sugar through the urine, which can lead to increased urination.
- Extreme thirst: Increased urination can also lead to dehydration, which can cause feelings of extreme thirst.
- Fatigue: High blood sugar levels can interfere with the body’s ability to convert food into energy, which can cause feelings of fatigue and weakness.
- Hunger: Even though you are eating, your body is not able to use the glucose for energy, this can cause feelings of hunger.
- Blurred vision: High blood sugar levels can cause the lenses of the eyes to swell, which can cause blurred vision.
- Slow-healing wounds: Diabetes can affect the body’s ability to heal wounds, making it more difficult to recover from injuries.
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet: High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves, which can cause numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
- Dry, itchy skin: High blood sugar levels can cause dry, itchy skin.
- Yeast infections: High blood sugar levels can make it easier for yeast to grow, which can cause infections.
- Darkened skin: High blood sugar levels can cause dark patches of skin to form, especially in the armpits and neck.
It is important to note that not all individuals with diabetes have symptoms and it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for regular checkups and screenings.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin to meet the additional needs of the growing fetus, resulting in high blood sugar levels. This type of diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women, typically in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.
Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
- Being overweight or obese before pregnancy
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Having had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- Being over the age of 25
- Having high blood pressure or other conditions that increase the risk of diabetes
Symptoms of gestational diabetes are similar to those of type 2 and may include increased thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, and fatigue. However, many women with gestational diabetes have no symptoms.
Gestational diabetes is typically diagnosed through a glucose tolerance test, which measures blood sugar levels after a woman has consumed a specific amount of glucose.
It’s important to note that gestational diabetes can increase the risk of certain pregnancy complications, such as high birth weight, preterm delivery, and cesarean delivery. Therefore, gestational diabetes is usually managed with a combination of diet, exercise, and sometimes medications such as insulin to ensure the health of the mother and the baby. Close monitoring by a healthcare team, including an endocrinologist, obstetrician, and diabetes educator, is essential.
The causes can vary depending on the type of diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes: The exact cause of Type 1 is not known, but it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. In people with Type 1, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes: The most common cause of Type 2 is insulin resistance, which occurs when the body’s cells stop responding to insulin. This leads to a build-up of glucose in the blood. Risk factors for Type 2 include being overweight or obese, having a family history of diabetes, being physically inactive, and having high blood pressure.
- Gestational diabetes: The cause of gestational diabetes is not entirely understood, but it is thought to be related to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. These changes can make it more difficult for the body to use insulin effectively, leading to high blood sugar levels.
Other types of diabetes, such as LADA, MODY and Neonatal , may have different causes and require specialized testing to identify.
It’s important to note that genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices can all contribute to the development of diabetes. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity and healthy diet, to reduce the risk of developing .
Diabetes can lead to a number of serious health complications if left untreated or not well managed. These complications can be grouped into two categories: microvascular and macrovascular complications.
- Retinopathy: Damage to the blood vessels in the eye, which can lead to blindness.
- Nephropathy: Damage to the kidneys, which can lead to kidney failure.
- Neuropathy: Damage to the nerves, which can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the hands and feet, as well as an increased risk of foot ulcers, infections, and amputations.
- Cardiovascular disease: Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Peripheral artery disease: Diabetes increases the risk of peripheral artery disease which can cause pain and numbness in the legs.
- Cerebrovascular disease: Diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels in the brain, increasing the risk of stroke.
Other complications include:
- Sexual dysfunction: Men and women with this desease may experience sexual dysfunction.
- Gastroparesis: Delayed stomach emptying, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
- Skin complications: People with diabetes are at increased risk of skin infections, as well as a condition called diabetic dermopathy, characterized by scaly patches on the skin.
It’s important to note that these complications can be prevented or delayed by managing blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, and regular check-ups with healthcare professional.
In conclusion, it is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. There are several types of diabetes, including Type 1, Type 2, and gestational. Each type has its own set of causes and risk factors, but all forms of diabetes can lead to serious health complications if left untreated or not well managed. Symptoms can include frequent urination, extreme thirst, fatigue, hunger, blurred vision, slow-healing wounds, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, dry itchy skin, yeast infections and darkened skin. To prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, it’s essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity and healthy diet, and to consult a healthcare professional for regular checkups and screenings.