Diabetes is not a disease per se – it is a condition. It cannot be cured, but it can be managed. If you have chronically elevated levels of blood glucose, you have diabetes. The normal or acceptable level of blood sugar is: less than 100 mg/dl fasting (usually, from the blood drawn in the morning before you eat anything), less than 140 mg/dl 2 hours postprandial, or 2 hours after you’ve had a meal. If your blood glucose is more than these numbers, you could be diabetic. You need to take a few tests over several days to be sure that it is diabetes and not just a temporary spike in your blood sugar. As per the CDC, as of 2015, about 30.3 million Americans, roughly 9.4% of the entire population of the US, had diabetes, and many more were living with prediabetes.
Why Does Diabetes Happen?
When there is insufficient insulin in your body, or the produced insulin is not properly utilized by your body, it is unable to metabolize carbohydrates properly, and the glucose cannot enter your cells to give your body the energy it requires; instead, it builds up in the blood.
Types of Diabetes
There are mainly two types of diabetes – type I and type II, the most common, out of which, the prevalence of type II is more; there is also gestational diabetes, which is a temporary condition.
This is a condition when you’re not quite diabetic yet, but your sugar levels are pretty near the warning mark – you are borderline diabetic, or pre-diabetic. If you’re very careful with your diet and exercise regularly, you may be able to avoid diabetes.
Temporary or reversible diabetes can be brought on by excessive stress, sedentary lifestyle, genetic factors, injury or illness, or poor dietary choices.
2. Gestational Diabetes
Some women experience high blood sugar during pregnancy; the sugar levels come back to normal after delivery, but in some cases, it could turn into type II diabetes. Pregnant women who have gestational diabetes have to be extremely careful with their diet, as it could complicate the pregnancy and affect the baby as well.
The placenta releases hormones to support the pregnancy, and that can lead to glucose buildup in your body; if your pancreas doesn’t produce sufficient insulin to counter this buildup, you may develop gestational diabetes.
3. Type I Diabetes
This is a condition where your body produces little or no insulin. Sometimes it’s a congenital condition, and is often seen in young adults, and is also called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes as these patients need insulin injections before every meal.
Though the exact reasons are still not very clear, it is thought that the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas, destroying the insulin-producing cells, called the islets of Langerhans. These cells recognize the glucose in the blood and prompt the production of insulin. They also promote the absorption of glucose into the cells; with these cells destroyed, the body is unable to identify when glucose has entered the bloodstream and does not secrete insulin. Genetic factors may also play a role in type I diabetes.
Type II Diabetes
This is the most common type of diabetes and usually sets in after you cross 40. As you grow older, in combination with environmental factors, your body’s ability to utilize the insulin produced in your body is reduced, leading to chronic levels of high blood sugar.
Age is one factor; a poor lifestyle choice is another. Overweight and obese people are more likely to develop diabetes type II because the presence of excessive fat in the body could hamper insulin production and utilization; however, not everyone who is overweight develops diabetes. Genetics also plays a role – you are more likely to develop diabetes if your parents (or their siblings) or grandparents had it.
Type I Diabetes
- Family history of the same condition
- Exposure to a viral illness (possibly)
- Presence of autoantibodies or damaging immune cells
Type II diabetes
- Age – risk increases with age
- Being obese or overweight
- Family history
- Race – American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans are at higher risk
- Chronic high blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Women who had gestational diabetes
- Women with PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome
Not everyone may have all symptoms; however, these are the most commonly seen symptoms in diabetics:
- Excessive thirst, that doesn’t seem to get quenched even with several glasses of water
- Increased frequency of urination, especially at night
- Unexplained weight loss – regardless of how much you eat (especially for type I)
- Feeling fatigued and drowsy – because your cells don’t get the glucose to release the energy you need to work
- Extreme hunger
- Blurry vision
- Slow healing wounds or sores
- Frequent gum, skin or vaginal infections
- Dry and itchy skin – due to loss of water
- Dry mouth
- Pain or numbness in feet or legs
- Presence of ketones in urine
- Ketone breath – the breath that smells a bit metallic, or like nail polish remover
- Nausea and vomiting (Type I)
Diabetes can lead to many complications like metabolic syndrome, heart disease, retinopathy (that can lead to blindness), kidney failure, nerve damage and so on. Therefore it is extremely important that you do regular checkups and keep your blood sugar within reasonable levels, to avoid these life-threatening complications.
Usually the type I diabetics need to take insulin injections. Type II diabetics are prescribed medicines, and sometimes insulin, based on the severity of their condition. Proper diet and an active lifestyle are an absolute must for diabetics to manage their condition well without developing complications.
If you are over the age of 40, check your blood sugar once a year if you are not diabetic, and once in six months after 45. If you are diabetic, you may be asked by your doctor to check every month or even fortnight depending on how well or badly controlled your diabetes is. It is important to consult a dietician to see what foods you can and cannot eat, and the quantities, and so on.
Have you tested your blood sugar recently? Do you have diabetes or pre-diabetes? Don’t delay – Act Now! Call us now and book a consultation with our physician for Diabetic care.
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Thank you for reading!
Also view our presentation on Diabetic Care and Education at EPIC Health