What is Diabetes?
OVERVIEW OF DIABETES AND ITS SYMPTOMS :
Diabetes is a chronic(lifelong) condition characterised by high sugar levels in the blood.Glucose is your body's primary source of sugar,the fuel your body needs for optimal performance,and growth.After you've had a meal,your body uses glucose from digested food as fuel for growth and energy.Glucose enters the bloodstream and are directed to your cells,where it is absorbed for use as fuel to unlock this energy .Insulin is a hormone which the pancreas secretes,which is the"KEY" to unlocking your cells for the glucose to be absorbed.After digestion ,the body produces the correct amount of Insulin to"unlock"your cells, for the absorption of the glucose to take place.This take place in healthy people,but in individuals who are Pre-diabetic or diabetic,there's little or no production of Insulin,or the body don't respond favorably to the Insulin being produced.The glucose accumulate in the bloodstream,and your body don't respond to it.This glucose are then passed into the urine and passes out of the body.Thus your body loses its ability to use this glucose for fuel,even though there's an accumulation of glucose circulating through your bloodstream.This levels of glucose in the bloodstream causes harm to your organs,such as the heart,eyes,kidneys and the nervous system,if left untreated for a long period.
The symptoms of diabetes varies in severity and length of onset and may depend on the type of diabetes that's present.As its symptoms can usually manifest itself as everyday "common ailments",it usually go unnoticed and undiagnosed .Some symptoms of the disease are similar to other illnesses,so care need to be taken when self-medicating ,so that you don't treat the wrong disease.Getting to recognise these symptoms is the critical first step into treating and managing this lifelong condition.
THERE ARE THREE MAIN TYPES OF DIABETES :
Knowing the differences between these various types,will help you make informed choices to understand and manage diabetes better.
TYPE 1 DIABETES :
TYPE 2 DIABETES :
GESTATIONAL DIABETES :
TYPE 1 DIABETES : CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS :
This type of Diabetes are usually diagnosed in childhood ,but it's not limited to children,as adults can also be susceptible to this type of the disease at any time.There's various causes for this type of diabetes.
According to medical experts Diabetes is an Autoimmune disease .This means that your Immune system,which is responsible for protecting your body against viruses and bacteria,are attacking the cells of the body,especially the pancreas cells(beta cells) which are responsible for insulin production.This results in the complete shutdown of the body's ability to produce insulin.Sufferers of this type usually requires daily doses of insulin injections for the rest of their lives,as their bodies can't produce insulin.
Genetics is one cause to be taken into consideration,as having a parent or relative with the disease,increases your risk of developing the condition.
SYMPTOMS OF TYPE 1 DIABETES :
These symptoms often develop suddenly and are severe .
(1) : Do you have the urge to urinate often?(This might be an indicator that there's excessive glucose in the blood(Hyperglycemia),due to the lack of,or inefficiency of the insulin.The kidneys can't filter this glucose back into the bloodstream.It tries to rectify this imbalance by drawing water from the blood to dilute this glucose.Your body needs to balance the levels through flushing it out by urination.Hence the need to take regular trips to the loo.
(2) : Do you have excessive thirst?(This may occur,because of the loss of fluid in the body due to high levels of glucose in the blood.Your body tries to compensate for the fluid imbalance.This dehydrates you,hence the need to drink more water and the urge to urinate frequently.This two symptoms go hand in hand.
(3) : Have you lost weight rapidly and inexplicably?(As a result of the body's cells inability to use sugar(glucose)as energy source,it uses an alternative source of energy.This energy is stored in the fat of the muscles.Subsequently your body breaks down this fat,leading to weight loss.
(4) : Do you feel tired most of the time?(Have you shrugged this feeling off as just the results of the daily grind?Think again.The glucose(sugar),accumulated in your blood,causes it to thicken.The lack of insulin prevents the absorption of glucose for energy by your cells,thus your body is deprived of the fuel to keep you going.This leads to extreme feelings of fatigue and weakness.
(5) :Do your wounds take long to heal?(Even small cuts and wounds take longer to heal than before.Care should be taken when wounds are detected,as the poor circulation of blood,and high glucose levels in diabetics can lead to complications and slow wound healing,which could lead to amputations.
It's important to mention the prevalence of Pre-Diabetes among the population.Although it's not categorised as, you having developed any of the type of diabetes that we are discussing,it usually is the pre-cursor to developing Type 2 diabetes.
This type is also known as Impaired glucose intolerance.Before a diagnosis for Type 2 diabetes are made,most of the patients almost certainly have pre-diabetes.This is a condition where the blood glucose levels are elevated,but not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes.Persons who have this condition also develops Insulin resistance.Although their bodies produces enough insulin, it don't respond favorably to the insulin.Glucose and insulin levels rises in the blood causing the body to react to rid itself of the excess glucose.Some of the symptoms,may not manifest in some individuals,but there are some signs to be on the lookout for.Thirst,frequent urination,blurred vision are common.Most patients who have increased insulin resistance also develop dark patches on their necks,knees,knuckles and elbows.
TYPE 2 DIABETES : CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS :
This type of Diabetes is the most common form of the disease.Anyone can get Type 2 diabetes.Those most at risk are people who are overweight or obese.However it's not limited to these people,as anyone whose family history shows trends of Type 2 diabetes are also at risk.Women who have developed Gestational diabetes while pregnant may also be susceptible to it later in life.Older people might also develop this form,because the aging process diminishes the body's ability to process the sugars.Are you a smoker,use alcohol and lead an inactive lifestyle?Then the warning bells should sound,because the risks increases when you take those factors into account.
Individuals with this type of diabetes produces insulin,however it is in insufficient quantities or the body doesn't respond adequately to use the insulin.This is called Insulin resistance.The insulin measure isn't enough to convert the glucose or the body don't respond to it to "unlock" the cells for glucose absorption.
As with Type 1 diabetes,the symptoms are similar in Type 2.
This type of diabetes can cause serious health issues,that's why it's important that you can spot these signs early.Sometimes individuals with Type 2 diabetes show no symptoms at all,but there are some other indicators of high glucose levels in the blood.It may be good to be on the lookout for these as well.
(1) Dry or itchy skin :
(2) Dry mouth :
(3) Blurred vision :
(4) Numb or tingling feeling in the hands,legs and feet :
This symptom is known as Neuropathy.
This developes gradually over time and is the result of the high glucose levels damaging your nervous system,usually in the extremities like the fingers and toes.Onset of this symptoms usually manifest after some time,when the high glucose levels have been left untreated or undiagnosed for a long period of time.Nerve damage can occur unexpectedly,before you even realise it.This symptoms can often be relieved,when proper glucose control measures are in place.
GESTATIONAL DIABETES :
This type of diabetes can occur in the third trimester of pregnancy in women.This is characterised by high glucose levels in the blood,which only manifest itself during pregnancy.The woman's pancreas produces enough insulin during this time,but the placenta,which provides nutrients to the foetus,secretes hormones which counteracts the effects of the insulin..Thus they develop a degree of impaired glucose tolerance(Insulin resistance).Most pregnant women, however produces more than enough insulin to compensate for this insulin resistance,and most don't develop this type of diabetes.This type usually ends after giving birth,but can lead to the onset of pre and type 2 diabetes later in life.
This is a treatable condition and women who keep up healthy control over their blood sugar levels can increasingly cut the risks associated with it.Those at risk of developing this type,are people who are obese and have a family history of Gestational Diabetes.Their bodies are not able to produce the correct quantities of insulin.Gestational diabetes don't manifest with any noticeable symptoms and is usually detected during pregnancy screenings.In rare cases it may cause excessive thirst and frequent urination,and care should be taken not to confuse this with the symptoms of simply being pregnant.
Babies born to mothers who has had gestational diabetes,are prone to risks associated with diabetes.Characteristics of symptoms are :
(1) Large body size for gestational age.( Usually babies have to be delivered by Cesarean section,rather than natural birth.)
(2) The baby's blood sugar levels are low (Hypoglycemia) Breastfeeding after giving birth or having a glucose tube inserted can raise the glucose level in the blood.There are also the risk that these babies develop breathing problems.
(3) The baby may develop jaundice.(Yellow appearance of the skin and the white of the eyes may change color.This condition is easily treated.
Later in life these children are also prone to obesity,and developing Type 2 diabetes.
I would recommend you to consult your doctor immediately if you suspect that you may be experiencing some or all the above symptoms.Your doctor,and medical experts will give you the best advice on tackling this condition head on.Knowing the results could help you make informed choices about managing and controlling diabetes better.
It's not all doom and gloom,and the end of life as you know it.With a change in attitude and making some lifestyle changes,you could be well on your way to reversing or delaying the onset of the disease or help to normalize your blood sugar levels.
A balanced low-calorie diet,coupled with a regular excercise routine to control your weight,can delay the onset of the disease in persons at risk of Type 2 diabetes.Your doctor or dietician can help you develop a healthy eating and exercise plan,which takes your weight and level of activity into account.Care should be taken though as exercising lower your blood sugar levels,and you wouldn't want it to drop too low,so consult your physician for advice.
Diabetics who smoke are at higher risk of developing serious life threatening conditions associated with diabetes.It elevates the cholesterol levels dangerously high in diabetics,and increases your risk of heart attacks.It's always wise to have your cholesterol levels checked,as sometimes cholesterol lowering medication are needed as well.Your physician can recommend ways to help you quit smoking.Nicotine patches and other medications are some of the many resources available to help you in this attempt.
In conclusion I recommend that you read up and learn all you can about this condition.I have done this and it has helped me understand my condition,and I'm on my way to manage it better.Like it's said,practice what you preach.By reading this article I hope I've put you well on your way of learning and understanding the condition better.Information about diabetes, glucose control,diet and exercise can be obtained from your physician or healthcare provider,and many organisations offer free information to help you prevent or take care of your diabetes.