Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is probably the most common disease to have inflicted a large part of the population all over the world. When the body is not able to produce enough insulin or regulate the level of glucose in the body, diabetes sets in. Glucose is required by the body to provide it energy to perform the daily activities and chores. The foods that we consume have some form of sugar, which is converted to glucose by the liver. The pancreas in the body produces insulin, a hormone, which regulates the glucose levels in the blood. With the help of insulin, glucose is transported from the blood to different cells, where it is used as energy. A disruption in this process leads to unregulated levels of glucose in the blood causing diabetes.
Types of diabetes
Diabetes can be mainly of two types because those who are affected with diabetes either cannot produce enough insulin or are not able to use the produced insulin in the correct manner. When a person in inflicted with diabetes, the glucose in his blood is unable to move to cells thereby staying in the blood, increasing the blood glucose levels. This leads to a dual problem. The cells that need glucose for fuel do not get enough of it and on the other hand, the tissues and organs exposed to high levels of glucose are prone to being damaged. The two types of diabetes are as follows:
Type 1 diabetes: in the first type of diabetes, the body is unable to produce insulin or if it does produces it, the quantity is far less than what is required by the body. Therefore, regulation of blood glucose level becomes a problem. This form of diabetes is diagnosed at an early stage as in childhood or adolescence. However, even adults may be inflicted with type 1 form of diabetes in cases where there may be incidents of pancreatic damage due to surgery, alcohol or any other disease. Type 1 diabetics need regular insulin treatment to tackle this form of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes: the second type of diabetes is induced when the body loses the capability partially or completely to use the produced insulin in the right manner. This insulin resistance causes the body to produce more insulin. Sometimes there is less secretion of insulin than what is required by the body, again leading to the type 2 form of diabetes. Ninety percent of the diabetics are afflicted with the second type of diabetes. The type 2 diabetes usually occurs around 45 years of age, however, the age of getting the type 2 diabetes is decreasing and even younger people are being afflicted with type 2 diabetes due to several reasons. The type 2 diabetes can be controlled by exercise, weight loss, oral medications and sometimes insulin as well.
Gestational diabetes: a third type of diabetes is the gestational diabetes, which occurs in some women during the second half of their pregnancy. Since this is temporary form of diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, the gestational diabetes eases after the baby is delivered. However, women with gestational diabetes have increased risk of having the type 2 diabetes later.
Complications of diabetes
Whatever the type of diabetes, there is an increase in the glucose levels in the blood ultimately, which leads to other severe complications. These complications are mentioned as follows:
- Damage to the retina of the eye
- Damage to the kidney leading to kidney failure
- Damage to the nerves, which might lead to foot ulcers and wounds and amputations
- Formation of plaque inside the arteries leading to blockages, which can cause heart attacks and strokes
- Chronic diarrhea
- Paralysis of the stomach
- Cause high levels of triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure in the body leading to increased risk of heart diseases and kidney diseases
People suffering from diabetes are more prone to having infections as the body’s natural ability to fight infections is hampered. These infections may in turn lead to further unregulated levels of glucose again delaying recovery from the infection.
While having a high blood sugar or hyperglycemia leads to several complications, low blood sugar or hypoglycemia is also equally dangerous. Hypoglycemia may be induced when a diabetic patient takes in too much insulin, diabetes medication, misses a meal, drinks too much alcohol or does more exercise than the usual routine. The symptoms of hypoglycemia are poor concentration, headache, dizziness, sweating and tremors.
Symptoms and diagnosis of diagnosis
The symptoms of diabetes are similar for both the types of diabetes; however, they are not sudden but appear gradually. The symptoms include:
- Dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Tingling or numbness of the hands or feet
- Itching of the skin
- Slow healing of wounds or sores
When a person experiences a combination or any of the symptoms mentioned above, he may go in for the fasting plasma glucose test. This test measures the glucose level in the blood when the person has not eaten anything for at least 8 hours. The blood glucose level in a person not afflicted with diabetes would be between 70 to 100 mg/dl. However, a person suffering from diabetes could have a higher level. There are some people who have normal fasting blood glucose levels but their readings increase when they eat. This means that such people are suffering from glucose intolerance and a test after one and a half hours of eating food is done to confirm this. The readings are taken consecutively for a few days to diagnose diabetes.
Management of diabetes
Diabetes cannot be cured completely but it can be managed and controlled. This includes taking a healthy and balanced diet, exercising regularly, taking medicines and insulin, if needed and monitoring the blood glucose levels from time to time.