What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that occurs when the pancreas fails to produce insulin, for moving glucose into the cells in our body. This results in high blood sugar levels. The state of high blood glucose is called Hyperglycemia. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin helps body cells to produce energy from glucose. Hyperglycemia, in the long run, damages the body and can eventually affect the functioning of various other organs.
Diabetes is often known as the Silent Killer by the health care providers as this condition brings several other disorders to patients. Hence it is important to manage diabetes to avoid complications that follow this disease. Diabetes can be managed effectively if it’s detected early. For better management of this condition, it is important to understand diabetes and its harmful effects on the body.
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How harmful is diabetes for your body?
Diabetes can have a lot of harmful effects on your body. They can be:
- Stroke: The risk of stroke with someone with diabetes is four times higher than someone without diabetes.
- Loss of consciousness: A person might experience loss of consciousness or even go into a coma when the body produces a high level of blood acids called ketones. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes.
- Visual disturbances: Visual disturbances, such as floaters, can be caused by damaged blood vessels of the eyes. If left untreated, this can lead to blindness.
- Cataracts and glaucoma: Compared to people without diabetes, people with diabetes are at high risk of experiencing glaucoma and cataracts.
- Risk of heart disease: High blood pressure and damaged blood vessels put added strain on the heart, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Fatigue and Tiredness: Fatigue is the most common symptom experienced in diabetes, it is a result of high sugar levels in the body and other complications of this condition.
- High blood pressure: A person with diabetes is at a high risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Pancreas malfunction: A poorly functioning or non-functioning pancreas won’t produce the insulin your body needs to convert glucose into energy.
- Gastroparesis: Poor blood sugar management can cause delayed emptying of food from the stomach. This can cause bloating, heartburn, and nausea.
- Frequent urination and Excessive Thirst: Frequent urination often can be an early warning sign of diabetes. Excessive thirst and frequent urge to urinate is also one of the complications of this condition.
- Protein in the urine: A high level of protein in the urine may mean your kidneys have some damage and aren’t functioning well.
- Damaged blood vessels: Blood flow is restricted if you have too much glucose in your body, which may lead to various symptoms and can cause damage to your blood vessels. Needless to say that diabetes patient who smokes is at high risk.
- Nerve damage: Nerves can be damaged by diabetes, which you may feel like ‘pins and needles’. A damaged nerve can also change your awareness of cold, heat, and pain, which will make you vulnerable to various injuries.
- Dry Mouth: Uncontrolled and high blood sugar causes the body to lose fluids at a faster rate. This may lead to dry mouth and cracked lips frequently observed symptoms in diabetes.
- Foot problems: Diabetes increases the risk of calluses, infections, or ulcers of the foot. This can be caused by nerve damage from high blood sugar and a decrease in circulation to your feet.
Types of diabetes
There are mainly three types of diabetes. They are type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body of the patient will not produce enough insulin. In type 2 diabetes, although the body produces enough insulin, it cannot be used well. Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition during pregnancy.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the immune system starts destroying the insulin-producing cells present in the pancreas. These cells are known as beta cells. Type one diabetes is usually diagnosed in young children. A child with type I diabetes will no longer produce the important hormone, insulin. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes in children but can be managed. The missing insulin has to be replaced with an insulin pump or by injecting insulin. Advanced insulin delivery and blood sugar monitoring have improved the quality of the life of children with diabetes and their blood sugar management.
Risk factors of type 1 diabetes:
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy eating
- Family history
Age, genetics, family history of diabetes can increase the possibility of becoming diabetic, which cannot be changed but lack of exercise and unhealthy eating can be changed.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, is a chronic disease. This affects the way the body processes sugar (glucose). If it is left untreated, the sugar level in the blood will increase and may lead to serious consequences. Type 2 diabetes was commonly seen in adults but due to the increasing obesity rate in children, diabetes is seen in children. Physical activity, healthy food, and maintaining a healthy weight can eliminate the chances of type 2 diabetes. See a doctor if you notice any of the symptoms of diabetes in your child.
Symptoms of diabetes
The main symptoms of diabetes are:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
Diagnostic criteria for diabetes
If the following criteria, one or more are met, diabetes should be diagnosed:
- Following a 75g oral glucose load, two-hour plasma glucose ≥ 11.1 mmol/L
- Fasting plasma glucose ≥ 7.0 mmol/L (126 mg/ dl)
If diabetes is poorly managed, it can lead to further complications, including cardiovascular disease, retinopathy, diabetic foot, pregnancy complications, kidney diseases, neuropathy, periodontitis. People with diabetes have a long healthy life with health professional support and good self-management. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented currently.
Type-2 diabetes can be prevented by following the below guidelines strictly:
- Know your risk factors and take action
- Stay active
- Eat healthily
- Have regular checkups for early diagnosis
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Take prescribed medicine regularly
- Avoid tobacco and limit alcohol
Diabetes concerns every family
- The current total number of people, living with diabetes, around the world is over 425 million. According to IDF (International Diabetes Federation), followed by India, China had the highest number of diabetes patients, 11.43 cr and 7.29 cr respectively, in the year 2017. Almost all these cases are type 2 diabetes. Families have key responsibilities in managing and preventing diabetes by advocating a healthy lifestyle in society.
- One in two people living with diabetes, currently, remains undiagnosed. It is very important to have early diagnosis and proper treatment to avoid serious complications. Once the management of diabetes was very expensive. Nowadays, access to various affordable essential medicines for diabetes has improved. This has also reduced the cost of it for individuals and families. To reduce various emotional impacts of the disease, education, and self-management support are provided for all the patients. As every family may have a diabetic person, it is high time for people to be alert about the disease and follow a healthy lifestyle to get rid of this disease.
Diabetes cannot be cured, but can only be controlled. People may get extremely disappointed when they know that, they’re diagnosed with diabetes. Positive thinking and the assistance of an expert health professional can control your diabetes effectively and make you lead a long healthy life. Timely precautions should be taken to prevent type 2 diabetes. Diabetes that comes with age, family history, or genetics cannot be prevented but can be controlled effectively by self-management and expert advice.
The most important thing is to get diagnosed in time. If it is diagnosed early, it is very easy to keep it under control. If it is diagnosed at a later stage, then it may lead to further complications, and taking medicines may not be effective. So, in case you feel you have any symptoms of diabetes, do not hesitate to visit your doctor. Remember, diabetes can be controlled but cannot be cured.