Have you or your loved one recently got diagnosed with diabetes? If yes, you may have numerous questions on your mind. Read on and find answers to all the common questions regarding the disease. Expand your knowledge better and help yourself and others better.
What is diabetes mellitus? How do I get it?
Diabetes mellitus is a severe disease that prevents your body from appropriately utilizing the energy from food you consume. You can get diabetes in any of the following conditions:
- Your pancreas produces very little or no insulin at all. Insulin is a hormone that is naturally occurring and is produced by the beta cells of the pancreas. It assists your body to utilize sugar for energy.
- The pancreas produces insulin, but the insulin doesn’t function as it should. This condition is also called insulin resistance.
To better understand diabetes, it would be beneficial for you to learn how the body uses food for energy (a process called metabolism).
Our bodies contain millions of cells. To produce energy, body cells need foods in a simplistic form. The food you eat, the beverages you intake - most of it gets decomposed into a simple sugar known as glucose. Glucose then provides our body with adequate energy that’s required to run our daily chores.
The blood and the blood vessels are the routes that carry sugar from where it is either taken in (the stomach) or produced (in the liver) to the cells where it will be utilized (muscles) or where it is accumulated (fat). Sugar cannot go into the cells directly. The pancreas liberates insulin into the blood, which acts as an associate, or the "key," that condones sugar into the cells to be utilized as energy.
When sugar departs the bloodstream and penetrates the cells, the blood sugar level is reduced. Without insulin (or the key), sugar can't enter the body's cells for use as energy. It causes the sugar level to increase. When the blood has excessive sugar in it, this condition is called high blood sugar or hyperglycemia.
What are the types of diabetes?
There are two main types of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes
- Also called insulin-dependent diabetes
- Usually starts in childhood, and so it was used to be called juvenile-onset diabetes.
- It is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the pancreas with antibodies. Due to this, the organ gets damaged, and so can no more produce insulin.
- The genes may be responsible for causing type 1 diabetes, but can also happen because of specific problems in your pancreatic cells that manufacture insulin.
- Several medical conditions that accompany type 1 diabetes occur due to damage of tiny blood vessels in your nerves (diabetic neuropathy), eyes (diabetic retinopathy), and kidneys (diabetic nephropathy).
Type 2 Diabetes
- Previously, type 2 diabetes was called non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes. But over the past years, it has become quite common in teens and children. The reason being several young people are now either overweight or obese.
- About 90% of the total cases of diabetes are of type 2 diabetes.
- In this type of diabetes, your pancreas produces either insufficient insulin or can't get utilized in the way it should. Insulin resistance usually occurs in fat, muscle, or liver cells.
- It is usually milder than type 1 diabetes. However, you can still have some major complications, particularly in the tiny blood vessels of your nerves, eyes, or kidneys.
- It also elevates your risk of a stroke or heart disease.
- People who are overweight or obese are at the highest risk for type 2 diabetes and its complications. Obesity usually leads to insulin resistance, which makes your pancreas work harder to produce more insulin. But it's still not sufficient to keep your blood sugar levels normal.
What is gestational diabetes?
It occurs when there is a high blood sugar level during pregnancy. As pregnancy advances, the baby in the womb has higher requirements for glucose. Hormone fluctuations during pregnancy also influence the action of insulin, which leads to increased blood sugar levels.
Pregnant women who are at a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes include those who:
- Are overweight
- Are over 35 years old
- Have a history of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
- Have a family history of diabetes
What causes diabetes mellitus?
The causes of diabetes mellitus diabetes are not sure. The factors listed below can elevates your risk for the disease:
- African-American, Native American, Hispanic, or Asian-American race, Pacific Islander or ethnic background
- Family history of diabetes or personal history of gestational diabetes
- Age (being older puts you at high risk)
- Injury to the pancreas (such as tumor, accident, infection, surgery)
- Physical stress (resulting from surgery or illness)
- Autoimmune disease
Some other factors on which you have more control are as follows:
- Being overweight
- High blood pressure
- Use of certain medications, including steroids
- Abnormal blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels
It is essential to note that sugar itself doesn't lead to diabetes. Having a lot of sugar may result in tooth decay, but it doesn't lead to diabetes.
What are the symptoms of diabetes mellitus?
Some of the common symptoms of diabetes mellitus include:
- Dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger (specifically after eating)
- Increased thirst
- Unintended weight loss (in spite of eating normally and feeling hungry)
Some other symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing cuts or sores
- Weak or tired feeling
- Dry and itchy skin
- Frequent yeast infections or urinary tract infections
- Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
Do you have diabetes mellitus?
If you experience any one or more of the symptoms listed above, talk to your healthcare specialist about getting a blood test to review your blood glucose level.
To determine whether you have diabetes or prediabetes, conduct a Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. If you've an A1C level of 6.5 % or higher on two separate tests, you have diabetes. An A1C level ranging between 5.7 and 6.4 % signifies prediabetes. The score below 5.7 is considered normal.
How is diabetes treated? Are you supposed to take the medicines lifelong?
- Diabetes is manageable but not completely curable.
- After your condition is under control, you should take your medicines to sustain healthy blood sugar levels.
- Get your blood sugar levels routinely checked to be assured that it's under control.
How can you prevent diabetes mellitus?
Following tips can be useful in diabetes prevention:
- If you are overweight, try losing some weight.
- Have a well-balanced and healthy diet
- Give up smoking and alcohol consumption.
What are the complications of diabetes mellitus?
- Increased risk of ischemic heart disease
- It may affect your nerves, heart, kidney, and eyes.
- Cuts and wounds should be treated immediately; otherwise, it would get infected. You may have gangrene, and the only probable solution to this is the amputation of the infected part.
- You may have peripheral artery disease (PAD). It is a circulatory problem in which constricted arteries reduce blood supply to your limbs. In this disease, your legs or other extremities of the body don’t receive adequate blood.
- Diabetic patients have an increased risk of having strokes.
Can you prevent the complications of diabetes mellitus?
Yes, it's possible to prevent diabetes complications. Research says that the sooner your diabetes is diagnosed, the earlier you start to get your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure level into target ranges. This will make you healthier over the years. To stay healthy and identify any complications early, ensure that your healthcare specialist orders all the tests and checks you frequently. Let your doctor know if you have any signs or symptoms of a future problem.