Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to make use of the energy from the digestion of the food resulting in high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Normally, our food is broken down into glucose after eating and this glucose provides the cells of the body with energy. To be able to use the energy, the body needs a chemical called insulin which is normally produced by the pancreas. In diabetes mellitus, the function of insulin is affected which causes the inability of the body to use up the glucose.

There are two main types of diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes. 

This occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient insulin for the body. This type of diabetes in commoner in younger people and children.

Type 2 diabetes.

This occurs when the body is not able to make the insulin it needs or occasionally, when not enough insulin is produced. In some cases, there is a combination of the two factors.

Women can develop a type of diabetes called Gestational diabetes during pregnancy. However, in many cases, blood glucose returns to normal after pregnancy.

What are the symptoms and signs of diabetes?

The following are some of the symptoms people with diabetes experience.

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased frequency of passing urine
  • Increased hunger even shortly after eating
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling weak and tired
  • Unexplained weight loss

It is important to note that some people do not actually experience symptoms particularly in the early stages of the condition.

What causes diabetes?

The cause of diabetes is not completely known, however, the following factors predispose people to develop diabetes especially type 2 diabetes.

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • Physical stress

How is diabetes diagnosed?

Diabetes is diagnosed when a person has the symptoms of diabetes and they have a high blood glucose level. In order to determine the blood glucose level, one needs to have blood tests done.

How is diabetes treated?

In treating diabetes, the aim is usually to maintain blood glucose within a safe level so as to prevent complications which can occur from diabetes. It is also important to ensure that other conditions such as hypertension and high cholesterol are treated optimally if one suffers from these as well.

There are two main measures which can be employed in treating diabetes.

  • Lifestyle changes. This involves those activities which help to keep us generally healthy and can also help in controlling the blood glucose level. These include activities like.
  • Exercise for weight management
  • Healthy diet
  • Reduced salt intake
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduced alcohol intake

These activities can in some cases help in reversing diabetes, especially in the early stages.

  • Medication. Majority of people with diabetes will at some point be treated with medication. There are many different types of medication for the treatment of diabetes but these are mainly divided into 2 types.
  • Tablets. These are medications that are taken by mouth and are mainly used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
  • Insulin Injection. These are daily injections administered by people with diabetes. They are the main treatment for type 1 diabetes but are also used in conjunction with tablets in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Can diabetes be prevented?

Type 2 diabetes which occurs mostly in people over 40 years old can in many cases be prevented. The key to preventing diabetes is a healthy lifestyle of appropriate diet, weight management, exercise, alcohol, and smoking reduction.

Why do we worry about diabetes?

Diabetes if not diagnosed early or if not properly treated result in so many complications which can, unfortunately, result in early death. The following are among the complications of diabetes.

  • Very high blood glucose which can result in coma
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Poor wound healing
  • Loss of feeling in the legs and hands
  • Loss of eyesight
  • Kidney damage
  • Impotence and infertility

In conclusion, diabetes is a very serious medical condition which needs to be managed properly. If you feel any of the described symptoms or are worried about developing diabetes, see your doctor.