Find out what diabetes is, its causes, the two different types of diabetes, diabetes related complications and how to manage the condition.
Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is a condition where the blood glucose or sugar regulation is impaired. Unregulated high blood glucose levels on a long run can lead to multile complications.
When food is consumed, it is digested and converted into glucose in our bodies. Glucose is a simple form of sugar, which gives us energy to perform activities and allows the body to carry out necessary cell functions. Having too much or too little glucose is not good. The ideal level of glucose in the body is maintained through a feedback system and this is where insulin comes into play.
What is Insulin
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It is needed to control the level of glucose in the blood. When the body senses the presence of food in the form of glucose, insulin is released from the pancreas. Insulin allows glucose from the blood to be take up into cells where it is used as energy to maitain normal body functions. Insulin helps the body clear up excess glucose in the blood after each meal and this maintains blood glucose within the normal range.
However, when there is a problem with insulin production or function, the blood glucose level goes uncontrolled - a condition more commonly known as diabetes.
Types of Diabetes
There are 2 types of diabetes - type 1 and type 2.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas cannot produce insulin. Without any insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells, but is left in the blood, causing high blood glucose levels. Furthermore, the body will not be able to use glucose as a form of energy. In this group of patients, insulin in the form of injections is essential for survival.
Type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is the more common form of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, insulin is present but cannot function well, resulting in insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure (hypertension). Usually, type 2 diabetes can be managed with a combination of exercise, diet modifications and oral medications.
However, over the years, the pancreas in type 2 diabetes patients may start to fail, resulting in a lack of insulin to cope with the glucose loads. Patients will then need to start on insulin treatment.
Diabetes-related Chronic Conditions
When diabetes is not well controlled, the risk of diabetes-related complications increases. High blood glucose levels cause a build-up of harmful substances in our body. These can affect the small vessels as well as medium and large vessels.
Small vessel complications affect organs such as the eye, kidney and feet. Diabetes eye disease is called retinopathy and if this is not treated or screend for, can lead to impaired vision and blindness.
Diabetes kidney disease manifests initially as protein in the urine and this can ultimately progress to kidney failure leading to dialysis.
Due to abnormal foot sensation, diabetes foot problems such as ulcers and infections can occur.
Besides these, medium and large vessels complications that can occur include:
- Coronary Heart Disease
- Diabetes food conditions cuch as gangrene
To prevent these chronic complications, a diabetes patient should have:
- Good diabetes control
- Optimal blood pressure and choloesterol levels
- Quit smoking
It is important to get the appropriate diabetes screening done every year to detect and manage these complications.
Living with Diabetes
At present, there is no cure for diabetes. The goal of diabetes treatment is to keep glucose levels within the target range specified by your doctor.
With good self-care, appropriate diet, exercise and medications, it is possible for people with diabetes to lead active and healthy lives.