Overview – What is it?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs as a result of the pancreas producing an insufficient amount of insulin for the body or when the body does not use the insulin produced by the pancreas effectively. Insulin is the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar in the body. The lack of insulin in the body or the underutilization of insulin by the body, brings about diabetes. The main types of diabetes are diabetes type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
The symptoms for diabetes vary, depending on the type of diabetes one has. For example, unintended weight loss is a symptom in people with type 1 and 2 diabetes. To determine whether a person has diabetes, a doctor checks the sugar level in the blood.
Though diabetes is not curable, it can be controlled using medication. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding tobacco smoking and trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle in general.
Causes – What causes it?
Different types of diabetes are caused by different factors, including:
- Deficiency in insulin production: This causes type 1 diabetes which is also referred to as Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM), Childhood-onset, or Juvenile Diabetes. This type of diabetes is not common, nor is it preventable. It however requires daily administering of insulin to the body.
- Ineffective use of insulin by the body (Insulin Resistance): This causes type 2 diabetes also known as Diabetes Mellitus, Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes (NIDD), or Adult-Onset Diabetes. This type of diabetes is the most common type and is mainly brought about by excess body weight and lack of physical activity.
- Gestational diabetes: This type of diabetes on the other hand, occurs during pregnancy due to the hormones produced by the placenta impairing the action of insulin in the cells and in turn, raising blood sugar.
Symptoms – What do you feel?
The symptoms for diabetes may vary depending on the type an individual is suffering from.
Some symptoms of juvenile diabetes (type 1) are:
- Frequent urination,
- Increased thirst and extreme hunger,
- Unintentional weight loss,
- Changes in vision,
- Mood changes,
- Fatigue and
- Constant hunger.
- Bed wetting in children who were not bedwetters before.
The symptoms for non-insulin-dependent diabetes (type 2) include:
- Frequent urination,
- Feeling thirsty and hungry frequently,
- Slow healing of sores,
- Weight loss,
- Frequent Infections,
- Blurred vision,
- Patches of darkened skin.
Gestational diabetes does not show noticeable signs and symptoms and therefore women who intend on getting pregnant should get checked so as to determine their risk of getting gestational diabetes.
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
- Glycated Haemoglobin (A1C) Test: This is a blood test that is done to check the average blood sugar level. It also measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to haemoglobin. A 6.5% or higher level indicates that a person has diabetes, 5.7% to 6.4% indicates prediabetes, while 5.7 % and below indicate normal blood sugar levels. This test is, however, not available for pregnant women or for people with an uncommon haemoglobin form that can make the test inaccurate.
- Fasting blood sugar test: This test is done after an overnight fast.
- Random blood sugar test: This test is used to check for blood sugar at a random time.
- Oral glucose tolerance test: This test is done following an overnight fast, after which a person drinks a sugary liquid, and the blood sugar level is tested again. It is done periodically for 2 hours.
Gestational diabetes, however, has no guidelines for screening which makes screening for all pregnant women the best option.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
The treatment options for diabetes depends on the type of diabetes an individual is suffering from.
Type 1 diabetes can be treated through the following options:
- Taking Insulin,
- Eating a healthily – foods rich in fibre and low in fats and calories, vegetables and fruit,
- Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly,
- Monitoring blood sugar regularly,
Type 2 diabetes is treated by:
- Eating healthily – foods low in fats but high in fibre, fruits and vegetables,
- Exercising regularly,
- Monitoring blood sugar,
- Taking diabetes medication or insulin therapy.
Gestational diabetes is treated in the following ways:
- Eating a healthy diet,
- Exercising regularly,
- Monitoring the baby’s growth and development closely.
Prevention – How do you prevent it?
There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. Type 2 and gestational diabetes, on the other hand, can be prevented by practising a healthy lifestyle through:
- Ensuring you eat healthy foods that are high in fibre but low in fats and calories.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Ensuring you remain active physically.
- Using some medications, such as Metformin, which can also be used to reduce the risk of diabetes (type 2).